What is COP26?
COP (Conference of the Parties) is attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994 by 197 countries (known as the ‘parties’). The 2021 meeting will be the 26th meeting, which is why it’s called COP26.
In 2015 these countries all agreed, for the first time, on a shared goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, and pledged to make changes to keep global warming ‘well below’ 2C with an aim of 1.5C so that we avoid a climate crisis. This is known as the Paris Agreement.
During COP26, around 200 countries – including world leaders and thousands of experts & negotiators – will be being asked for their long-term plans to cut emissions by 2030 and will be being reviewed on their progress since the Paris Agreement.
Why is COP26 happening?
The planet is heating up, and quickly, due to greenhouse gas emissions released from humans burning fossil fuels for things like providing electricity, heat and powering transportation.
This climate change causes a set of changes threatening the planet and our lives such as extreme weather events including heatwaves, floods, forest fires and melting of polar ice caps leading to rising sea levels. The past decade was the warmest on record and many countries agreed that urgent collective action was needed to tackle this problem.
What is being discussed at COP26?
A key discussion point of COP26 will be whether countries are aligning with what they pledged in the Paris Agreement. Upon signing the Paris Agreement, countries admitted that the targets they set would not be conducive to limiting global warming to 1.5C and therefore COP26 was put in place to update their targets. All countries will be submitting their new targets for reducing emissions and should be improving their commitments, setting things like net zero targets.
Another key area that will be discussed is climate finance. In the Paris Agreement it was agreed that richer countries should provide $100bn annually by 2020 to help developing countries combat climate change and develop in a green way. In 2019 only $79.6bn was raised so this will be a key topic of discussion ensuring countries realign with targets and ensure climate action and climate justice for poorer countries.
Further topics of discussion are likely to include: making faster switch to electric cars, phasing out coal power, preventing deforestation and protecting people from climate change impacts eg. flood defence and coastal protection.
At the end of the conference a declaration is expected to be signed to affirm the commitments made.
COP26 is seen as the summit to both address what has and hasn’t been achieved since 2015, while also setting concrete plans to reach the Paris Agreement targets. And currently, the world is not on track to limit warming to 1.5C.
How does this impact UK businesses?
To align with commitments and reduce emissions in line with the targets agreed at COP26 the government will be introducing legislation to businesses and individuals to meet the country’s commitment.
These include some of the following for the UK:
- By 2023 most big UK firms and financial institutions will have to set out detailed public plans for how they move to a low carbon future in line with the UK’s net-zero 2050 target.
- Transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will impact households energy sources with UK promising to quadruple wind power by 2030 (UK is currently world leader in offshore wind)
- Housing (accounting for around 14% of UK emissions) will undergo new legislation to phase out gas-boiler heating and poor insulation such as grants for homeowners to install heat pumps.
- Transport, both public and private, will also be affected with the government banning no new petrol or diesel cars to be sold from 2030.
- In regards to food there have been talks of thinks like meat limits/ rations being introduced however at this point this is too invasive and severe so the expectation is to encourage people to eat 20% less meat and dairy on average by 2030
What are we doing at Incubeta to support?
In 2019 Incubeta established a Sustainability Committee with a goal of helping our business, clients and people improve their sustainability journeys. Over the past 2 years we have introduced a range of initiatives to align with this goal including an overhaul of our waste management and recycling procedures, plastic free weeks, sustainability philosofridays, and becoming Planet Mark certified.
This year a main focus for the committee has been centered around carbon emissions and in particular digital carbon. We have partnered with Ecologi, an offsetting partner, to help us in our climate action journey, aiming our own emissions as well as our client digital carbon emissions – more to come on this soon!
In addition to this we have partnered with Ecovadis, providing us with sustainability assessments, targets and actions to improve our sustainability standards across the business.
Finally our office building, The Bower, is run on a completely renewable energy tariff, helping the transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy.