COP26 – Our Predictions

What is COP26?

COP26 is a United Nations climate change conference being held in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November 2021It will see around 200 countries convene to discuss plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and negotiate what share of responsibility each one has.   

But it is more than just another conferenceWith the science showing that we are reaching certain tipping points on greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, for manyCOP26 represents arguably the most important conference on climate change for a generation. 

COP itself stands for the Conference of the Parties. This will be the 26th meeting for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – and that’s what gives it the name COP26.  

At COP21 in 2015, countries committed under the Paris Agreement to take measures to reduce their emissions to avoid a climate catastrophe, by limiting temperature increases to below 2C and, ideally 1.5C below pre-industrial levels. Back then, each country submitted nationally determined contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. COP26 will be the first time that governments will discuss their progress and are likely to find themselves challenged and asked to increase their level of ambition. In many ways – it is a report card for the planet – where governments will be assessed on attainment and effort.  

The different sides to COP26

There are really two distinct sides to COP26. The first is the official negotiations between delegations from each country which will see the first week dominated by technical discussions. Each country will be scrutinised on its nationally determined contribution (NDC) which is its share of resolving the global challenge – usually manifested as a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a specified date. This is likely to be followed in the second week, by announcements from Heads of State from around the world highlighting and/or defending their contribution.   

The second side is a wider set of events, talks, film screenings and discussions that will be happening outside of the official negotiations. This is where you’re likely to see companies and trade bodies share how they are responding to a climate emergency, whilst NGOs and activists raise awareness on issues and call out examples of greenwashing and where pledges need to become proven action. 

Our COP26 predictions

Here are four issues we’re expecting to see at COP26:

A world that is behind on its climate targets 

The stark reality is that nations are significantly behind schedule on pledges and commitments to reduce global emissions. The latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report found that the collective plans of 120 countries that have submitted NDCs would lead to a 7.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 which is nowhere near the 55% reduction by 2030 needed to keep within the 1.5C temperature threshold.   

In addition, a World Meteorological Organization report released  ahead of COP26 highlighted that greenhouse gas concentrations actually increased in 2020, despite the global lockdown, to hit a new record high.

Businesses making pledges, but being asked to prove action 

Since the Paris Agreement we’ve seen a number of businesses make pledges to respond to climate change. For example, in the last few years we have seen Microsoft pledge to be carbon negative by 2030 and LinkedIn announce their plans for a carbon negative office.  

Joint corporate pledges have become commonplace such as the Climate Pledge from Amazon, to the RE100, the UN Global Compact and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).   

At Interface, we launched our mission Climate Take Back, to run our business in a way that reverses global warming.  We’ve worked to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations and also reduce the footprint of our products themselves to help our customers reduce their impact. All our products, carpet tile, LVT and nora® rubber flooring are now carbon neutral for their full lifecycle, and we’ve taken steps to further reduce the embodied carbon through the use of carbon negative materials for our carpet tiles.  

At COP26, expect to see further calls from commentators for businesses to turn pledges into action, especially with the UNFCC organised Race to Zero group.

Importance of putting the science at the core of climate targets 

What makes COP26 credible is that the discussions are rooted in the science with the negotiators using the IPCC Reports as the basis for discussions. With the IPCC you have the expertise of thousands of scientists from over 190 countries who have been commissioned by governments to find the latest data. 

Another trend we expect to see at COP26 is for companies to be asked to make pledges rooted in science.  

It is now best practice for companies to ensure that their reduction commitments are consistent with the Paris Agreement (COP21) and keep global temperature increases below 1.5°C. This is known as a Science Based Target (SBT) – an initiative run by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) that aims to elevate businesses’ commitments to GHG reductions and to recognise companies leading in this area. 

Whilst any company can announce a carbon or GHG reduction goal, an SBT offers third-party assessment and validation that a company’s efforts are rooted in science and ambitious enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C. 

At Interface, we’re committed to reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50%; our Scope 3 emissions from purchased products and services by 50%; and our emissions from travel and commuting by 30% — all from a 2019 base year. Then we will go beyond this to become a carbon negative company by 2040.

Wealthier governments pledging further support to developing countries 

Many of the developing countries have greenhouse gas and resilience commitments in their NDCs that are conditional on having access to increased financial support from wealthier nations or the finance world. As part of global agreements, an annual pledge of USD $100 billion by 2020 was made in 2010 as part of the UNFCCC process but was not met. In September 2021, US President Joe Biden announced that he would be doubling aid to developing countries that were vulnerable to the climate crisis – pledging USD $11 billion and urging fellow world leaders to meet this commitment.  

We expect this to be a key issue at COP26 with the leaders and negotiators from developing countries ensuring their NDCs are fair and NGOs and activists challenging the wealthier nations to meet their commitments and make climate change an equitable issue.  

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One response to “COP26 – Our Predictions”

  1. I completely agree and support all positive efforts towards bringing order and sensibility to the use of this planet which we only have one.

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