It’s ready, set, go for COP26. What happened on Day 1?
01 November 2021 Cop26
COP 26 is officially on. We all know what’s at stake: limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. In May 2021, the IEA published its Net Zero by 2050 report to remind us all that we are walking on a tightrope, yet such an outcome remains within reach.
The Glasgow Imperative Paper, the first official release of COP 26, is all about adaptation. The UNFCCC defines adaptation as “adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts”. This paper acknowledges that climate change can exacerbate inequalities between countries. The action plan is split into five categories:
- Building Resilience Across All of Society. A new initiative, The Race to Resilience, has gathered 2,000 stakeholders. It focuses on incorporating adaptation strategies, notably for critical infrastructure (e.g. water, power), into long-term planning and investments.
- Effective Risk Management. Better planning, warning systems, and strengthened first responses when a climate disaster happens require international funding.
- Transforming Adaption Finance. Make capital accessible for adaptation projects (e.g building dams or says, relocating business activities, notably agriculture in less vulnerable areas).
- Catalysing Locally-Led Action. A welcome acknowledgement that climate change impacts are felt locally, and it is critical that policies, best practices, and funding reach their destination.
- Harnessing the Power of Nature. It highlights the need to preserve ecosystems to ensure food security and stability amongst communities.
To us, the punchline of COP 26’s 80 seconds introductory video (right after a speech by Sir David Attenborough listing the potential climate-related catastrophes that humanity could be facing) is “Turn Commitments Into Action”. If Glasgow is all about action, how should we read into this inaugural document? A call to act to adapt? Is promoting adaptation a disguised acknowledgement that climate change mitigation, i.e. our ability to decarbonise our economies and societies, already lags what is required? It seems that a lot has happened since Paris:
- According to an Oxford study published in March 2021, 68% of global GDP was covered with net zero pledges. Since then, additional countries have formulated net zero ambitions (including Russia and Saudi Arabia by 2060), we’re getting closer to 72% of global GDP
- About 2,000 companies establishing net zero strategies by 2050 or earlier, following the SBTi framework
- Citizens of the world are keen to see climate action happening. Indeed, 64% of the respondents believe that climate change is an emergency.
And yet, it feels that much more could have been done over the past 6 years, potentially making Glasgow a make or break on mitigation.
Or should we read this call to adaptation as a message that some of the consequences of human activities on climate are already irreversible? In this case, adaptation is definitely required to ensure that the most vulnerable countries and their most vulnerable populations can withstand abrupt changes to their living conditions.
To quote a Scottish mountaineer and writer, H.W. Murray, “whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, power, and grace”. Let’s ensure that we find all that in Glasgow over the next few days.