UK100’s Campaigns Officer and COP26 Lead Talia Berriman gives a recap of why COP26 is so important and why the government won’t reach its climate commitments without the involvement of local leaders.
What’s all the hype about COP26?
After decades of disagreements over responsibility for climate change, representatives from all 195 countries came together in Paris in 2015 for the 21st annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP21). They agreed to limit global warming to 2°C degrees or as close to 1.5°C as possible, in a bid to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and this became known as the Paris Agreement.
Next year, the UK will host the conference (known as COP26) in Glasgow, which is expected to be a similarly significant moment in history. The annual conferences (COPs) after Paris were mostly spent negotiating the terms of the Agreement, the deadline for which is in Glasgow. By COP26, which is taking place in November 2021, countries must submit their action plans on how they will cut carbon emissions to align with the Paris Agreement and how they will accelerate climate action over the next decade. Scientists agree that what we do over the next 10 years is crucial as to whether or not we will be able to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.
A great vision but no real plan
In November 2021, all eyes will be on the UK. World leaders will descend on Glasgow, expecting the UK to show leadership on climate action. The UK parliament has already demonstrated that it is serious about tackling the climate emergency, being the first major world economy to pass legislation to bring emissions from all greenhouse gases to Net Zero by 2050. This will mean cutting our production and use of dirty and polluting fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas so that no more harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere.
However, despite this ambitious target, we are not on track yet to even meet the previous target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, which was set by the 2008 Climate Change Act. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has stated that although Net Zero by 2050 is technically possible, it will be highly challenging.
The goal of Net Zero by 2050 shows ambition far beyond what many other countries have legislated. However, we must remember that, as of yet, it is still only a goal. We don’t have a plan of how we’re going to get there, and we need to act fast if we’re to do it in a way that benefits our communities and that brings people along with us.
National government can’t meet Net Zero without local leaders
Local authorities influence up to 70% of the UK’s emissions, so they are essential to the UK government’s intention to reach Net Zero by 2050. They know their communities best and so are best placed to deploy the solutions that will both tackle the climate crisis and bring about a fair and just transition to a Net Zero economy.
National government will, no doubt, be making some major announcements in the year to COP26 as world media and the international climate community focus their attention on the UK. We want to see local government placed at the heart of any national climate action plans, if those plans are to be more effective and to accelerate emissions reductions in the UK.
What UK100 is doing to help make COP26 a success
UK100 is leveraging the opportunity of COP26 to secure more ambitious climate commitments from our members, and together we will advocate to national government for the powers and support to act on these commitments.
Our first step is updating our membership pledge to reflect the huge progress that has been made by our members, many of whom have plans to reach Net Zero well before the UK’s legislated target of 2050. This will demonstrate to national government, as well as those across the world, the commitment of local leaders in the UK to limit the worst impacts of climate change by acting now.
In the coming months, we will also be launching our new online knowledge hub with exemplar projects developed by our members that deliver real emissions reductions. This will enable local leaders to learn from each other, grow confident in the solutions that work and design and adapt them to their own communities’ needs.
For UK100 members, the year to COP26 is going to be a year of demonstrating the action and ambition of UK local leaders, a year of dialogue that connects them with each other and global leaders to build climate ambition and action, and a year of advocating for the powers needed to accelerate the path to a Net Zero society. We hope you join us on this journey.
Talia Berriman, Campaigns Officer and COP26 Lead