COP26: A clear path

COP26 could be the moment to get the world truly on track to address climate change and build a cleaner, brighter future, says Head of UK's Mission to the European Union, Ambassador Lindsay Appleby
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By Lindsay Appleby

Lindsay Appleby CMG is Ambassador and Head of the UK Mission to the European Union

29 Oct 2021

This November, the United Kingdom will welcome the world to Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference - COP26 - in partnership with Italy. This is the moment to get the world truly on track to address climate change and build a cleaner, brighter future. Leaders will come together for two weeks to negotiate a series of political and technical agreements to limit global temperature rises to well below 2°C, with 1.5°C the target. It is vital that we secure the accountability and transparency needed to enable the world to meet this goal.

The UK and the EU are like-minded partners when it comes to tackling climate change. Our common ambition leads the way and sets the example for the rest of the world. Coordination between us on COP26 has been, and will be, vital to its success. We are already seeing real positive change. Countries covered by a net zero or carbon neutrality commitment now account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and around 80 percent of global GDP. When we took the role of COP Presidency in December 2019, in partnership with Italy, coverage was less than 30 percent of worldwide GDP.

“The European Parliament Resolution on COP26 […] shows our shared sense of urgency in forging a consensus on the necessary climate ambition to achieve global climate neutrality by mid-century”

I have been very pleased with the series of strong climate commitments from the EU. Make no mistake: these have been instrumental in driving ambition and momentum; likewise, the UK’s climate commitments ahead of COP26 next month. Last year the EU announced its intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030, and later saw this enshrined in the Climate Law.

This strong ambition was very welcome. But genuine implementation is what really matters in tackling climate change, and the EU has followed up with the ambitious and unprecedented ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package aimed at turning that target into reality. This package is aligned with our COP26 objectives - including early phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles - and a great example of working together to drive global ambition. 

The UK too has an ambitious emissions reduction target, or Nationally Determined Contribution, of 68 percent by 2030, with a further commitment to 78 percent by 2035. And last week the UK launched its Net Zero Strategy: the measures we are going to take to transition to a green and sustainable future. It sets out clear policies and proposals for keeping us on track for our carbon budgets, our ambitious NDC and our vision for a decarbonised net zero economy by 2050.

The UK and EU approaches support COP26 objectives such as phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles, and are a great example of how we can work together to drive ambition. The additional €4bn of public climate finance announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her State of the Union address represented significant progress towards meeting the commitment to deliver $100bn a year toward adaptation and mitigation to assist countries most impacted by climate change.

“If we are serious about the 1.5°C ambition, Glasgow must be the COP that finally consigns coal power to history, calls time on deforestation, signals the end of polluting vehicles and enables the world’s most vulnerable to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change”

Last week, I was also pleased to see the ambitious European Parliament resolution on COP26. This shows our shared sense of urgency in forging a consensus on the necessary climate ambition to achieve global climate neutrality by mid-century. My team have been meeting the MEPs on the European Parliament’s delegation to Glasgow, explaining our vision and how the EP can support ambitious outcomes. The European Parliament’s participation in Glasgow underlines the political unity on the need to tackle this crisis.

I have welcomed EU collaboration across a range of international fora on climate this year. The G7 in Carbis Bay, the first ever ‘net zero’ G7, was a key milestone on the road to COP26 and delivered ambitious commitments on climate finance, an end to international coal finance and conserving or protecting at least 30 percent of global land and 30 percent of the ocean by 2030. Working with our Italian partners, we expect ambitious conclusions at the G20 Summit in Rome which keep the 1.5°C goal alive.

Despite this progress, and with COP26 now only a week away, there is more to be done if we are to seize the opportunity before us. If we are serious about the 1.5°C ambition, Glasgow must be the COP that finally consigns coal power to history, calls time on deforestation, signals the end of polluting vehicles and enables the world’s most vulnerable to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. I hope remaining European donors will be able to come forward with increased finance commitments ahead of COP towards the $100bn a year promised to support developing countries. 

The European Union and its Member States have a vital role in making this summit a success. Together, we have a clear path to a COP26 in which every country, and every part of society, embraces their responsibility to protect our planet. 

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COP26

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Energy & Climate
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