COP 26

Co-ordinator: Anne Litherland

Credit: Gustavo Queron / Unsplash

COP 26 and our parish: 

Climate Change Sunday (28th Feb 2021)
We are holding a Climate Sunday on 28th February as part of our #LiveSimply and Make COP26 Count action plans.

Holy Apostles’ and Martyrs’ parish are working towards our #LiveSimply award with CAFOD. One important action is to lobby our MP and PM on climate change. We have signed up to be part of Make COP 26 Count with more than 30 churches working together with the charities Hope for the Future and USPG.

As part of this we are promoting a Green Energy Switch with Merseyside Collective Switch; a Climate Sunday on 28th February 2021 and will arrange to meet our MP, Dame Angela Eagle.

This document gives the background information to COP26 and explains why the meeting and the UK’s role as host, is crucial. Please read it and support our actions.

The COP26 – A Basic Summary

Global Warming

  • There is incontrovertible scientific evidence for global warming.  The decade to 2020 was the hottest on record, and 2016 and 2020 were the hottest years ever.  The average global temperature in 2020 was 14.9ºC, which was 1.2ºC above the average for 1850-1900 (‘pre-industrial levels’).
  • Global warming results from the accumulation in the earth’s atmosphere of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) but also methane, nitrous oxide and other gases.  The excess gases are produced by human activities, principally power generation, transport, manufacturing, domestic energy consumption, animal and dairy farming, landfill sites, and deforestation (which loses the trees’ capacity to absorb CO2).
  • Global warming is responsible for changing climates on land and in oceans, an increase in extreme weather events and rising sea levels around the world.  Increasingly the impact will be felt across the planet in food and water shortages, loss of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources, environmental destruction, and inability to protect coastal areas – threatening human health and livelihoods and leading to more poverty, famine, conflict and displaced populations.
  • Scientists agree that impacts increase as global temperatures rise, but the relationship is not necessarily linear.  Higher temperatures can be disproportionately damaging, and raise the risk of passing ‘tipping-points’ which can lead to irreversible impacts and/or further amplification of climate change.
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would reduce the negative impacts by about 25% compared with 2ºC.  Global economic growth is projected to be 5% higher if warming is limited to 1.5ºC rather than 2ºC.  (ECIU briefing, Net Zero: why 1.5ºC?).
  • But according to current estimates, it is ‘likely’ that unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global temperature increases of 2.6ºC – 4.8ºC by 2100, and that we will reach 1.5ºC of global warming between 2030-2052 (IPCC report, Climate Change 2014).
  • If emissions of greenhouse gases are allowed to carry on growing unchecked the results for life on planet earth, including human life, will be catastrophic.  Given the lead time involved in reversing current patterns of human activity and consumption, co-ordinated and sustained international action is urgently needed.

The Paris Agreement 2015

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and came into force in 1994 with 196 countries ratifying it.  Every year since 1995 countries’ representatives have met in a Conference of Parties (COP) to review the implementation of the Convention.
  • The 2015 conference in Paris (COP21) was a turning point.  195 countries adopted the ‘Paris Agreement’ in which governments committed to keep the increase in global temperatures to ‘well below 2ºC’ and to ‘make efforts’ to limit the increase to 1.5ºC (above pre-industrial levels).  They also agreed the principles of an implementation mechanism – which were developed with standards for calculating emissions etc. into the ‘Paris Rulebook’ adopted in 2018.
  • Recognising that existing emissions reduction commitments were inadequate to achieve their goals, Paris 2015 approved a new approach.  Instead of the COP attempting to allocate targets to countries, they agreed that in future governments would set their own individual targets or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  They would submit updated targets every five years from 2015, with a global stocktake between each round of NDC submissions, as shown in the diagram below.
  • The purpose of the new process was for countries to scale up their NDCs at regular intervals so as to achieve the twin objectives of stabilising global warming at well below 2ºC and seeking to limit it to 1.5ºC.
  • A weakness of the NDCs approach however is that international aviation and shipping are excluded from the targets.
  • It also leaves the responsibility for taking effective climate action entirely with individual nation states.  They are legally bound to submit NDCs, but there is no legal requirement to achieve them or to increase their climate ambition over time.

The Emissions Gap

  • Since different greenhouse gases vary in the intensity of their contributions to global warming, for measurement purposes gases are weighted in terms of their CO2 equivalent in gigatonnes – GtCO2e.  (1 gigatonne equals 1 billion tonnes.)
  • Progress since 2015 has been nowhere near enough to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which is essential if global warming is to stabilise at 1.5 – 2.0ºC above pre‑industrial levels by 2100. 
  • The figures below are taken from the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2020. 

All figures expressed as Gt CO2 equivalentObjective <2.0ºC in 2100Objective <1.5ºC in 2100
To be on track to achieve objectives by the year 2100, annual global emissions must reduce by 2030 to:41 Gt25 Gt
Implementation of existing unconditional NDCs will result in global emissions of 56 Gt by 2030 which is:37% too high124% too high
Countries’ current policies will fall short of NDC targets and result in global emissions of 59 Gt by 2030 which is:44% too high136% too high
  • There is a huge gap between the objectives set in the Paris Agreement and what is actually happening with emissions.
  • It would therefore be expected that the revised NDCs submitted in 2020 would be much more ambitious in carbon reduction compared with 2015.  However according to information from (CAT) at the start of January 2021:
    – 69 (37%) countries had submitted or proposed updated NDCs (42 plus the EU27);
    – 119 (63%) countries had NOT updated their targets.
  • Moreover out of 44 countries analysed by CAT who had submitted or proposed updated targets to reduce emissions, 34 committed to stronger NDCs (7 plus the EU27) but 10 did NOT commit to more ambitious targets.
  • Against this background, COP26 will be crucial in galvanising the international community as a whole into action to close the commitment gap.

COP26 – Glasgow, 1st – 12th November 2021

  • COP26 is realistically the last chance to change course for 2030, because NDC submissions are only made every five years.  The revised NDCs due in 2025 will come too late.
  • It is essential to keep the hope/aim of 1.5ºC alive, and not to settle for 2ºC because it’s easier to achieve or to reach agreement.
  • COP26 has three main functions.
    Accountant:  tracking and collating nations’ NDCs, holding governments to account;
    Admonisher:  highlighting the urgency, putting pressure on governments who are not doing enough;
    Animator:  sharing where it’s going well, encouraging governments to do more.
  • The coronavirus pandemic provides a unique opportunity for climate action.  The world has the chance to plan for a green recovery, with much greater investment going into green technologies.
  • And this needs to be implemented globally, which will require financial support and investment into the least developed countries (LDCs).
  • Decisions made by China, the US, and the EU are of critical importance.  But the UK as conference host has a particularly important role to play.  Intensive pre-conference diplomacy by the host country is key to the conference’s success. 
  • Alok Sharma has been designated by the UK as the President of the conference which is now his full-time role.  He has defined five priorities for COP26:
    – (1) Adaptation and resilience:  ‘Helping people, economies and the environment adapt and prepare for the impacts of climate change.’
    – (2) Nature:  ‘Safeguarding ecosystems, protecting natural habitats and keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.’
    – (3) Energy transition:  ‘Seizing the massive opportunities of cheaper renewables and storage.’
    – (4) Accelerating the move to zero-carbon road transport:  ‘By 2040 over half of new car sales are projected to be electric.’
    – (5) Finance:  ‘We need to unleash the finance which will make all of this possible and power the shift to a zero-carbon economy.’

Climate Action in the UK

  • To provide credible leadership for COP26 the UK must itself demonstrate climate leadership and increase its own climate ambition.
  • The UK has a mixed track record on climate action to date.
  • Positives:  the UK has achieved a 42% reduction in emissions since 1990, which is the fastest of any G7 country.  The Climate Change Act 2008 committed the UK to an 80% reduction by 2050:  this was strengthened last year into a commitment to reach net zero by 2050.  The UK has now submitted an ambitious NDC – a 68% reduction of emissions from the 1990 baseline by 2030.  NGOs were pushing for a 70-75% reduction but the NDC was mostly well received.
  • Negatives:  most of the UK’s emissions reduction is based on the power sector.  It has only made limited progress in key areas such as transport and housing which are essential to achieving net zero and which require democratic engagement and the public’s support.  The UK is not on track to meet its carbon budgets in most sectors.  Whereas with the size of its economy and its technology capabilities, some would argue that the UK should be taking a bigger share of global emissions cuts, and moving faster to implement them.
  • A further negative is that the government has no strategy or policy requiring the impact on national carbon budgets to be properly taken into account in regional or even national planning decisions.  The government has just approved a deep coal mine in Whitehaven Cumbria, and it hasn’t changed its policy position favouring a third runway at Heathrow.
  • In November 2020 the government published a new strategy, The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution which proposes:
    – (1) Advancing Offshore Wind
    – (2) Driving the Growth of Low Carbon Hydrogen
    – (3) Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power
    – (4) Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles
    – (5) Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking
    – (6) Jet Zero and Green Ships
    – (7) Greener Buildings
    – (8) Investing in Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage
    – (9) Protecting Our Natural Environment
    – (10) Green Finance and Innovation
  • This strategy has received at least a cautious welcome in most quarters.  However it would only close 55% of the gap in meeting the approaching, legally binding climate goals in the Climate Change Act, and so it falls well short of a plan to deliver net zero by 2050.

‘Make COP26 Count’

  • This is the context for the ‘Make COP26 Count’ programme which promotes and supports participant churches in taking:
    – spiritual actions and practical actions to respond locally to the climate emergency, and
    – engagement with local politicians about the national need for climate action on the scale required in all key sectors, and the imperative of securing good outcomes from COP26.
  • 33 churches are signed up for the programme in January 2021.  The churches are from across the UK and are a very diverse and ecumenical group, but we are united in our commitment to make a difference and to ‘Make COP26 Count’.