5 minute read 18 May 2021
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Seven signs of success for the Paris Agreement and COP26

RECAI 57: six years on, we highlight the key requirements needed to address climate change at COP26 if the Paris goals are to be realized.

This article is part of the 57th edition of the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI).

In brief

  • Six years after the Paris Agreement, we discuss if we are any further down the road to limiting global temperature rises and addressing climate change.
  • Actions to be taken at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to ensure the legacy of the Paris Agreement.
  • How many — and which — measures must be adopted by delegates if COP26 is to be a successful follow-up to Paris and a turning point in the climate crisis.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November – the first COP to be held since the Paris Agreement’s measures took effect – offers a monumental opportunity to address climate change, strengthen ambition and embark on the pathway to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

2020 was one of the three hottest years ever recorded, with an average temperature 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels. Momentum is building that could result in COP26, which will be held in Glasgow, UK, from 1 to 12 November 2021, being a turning point in the climate crisis.

In the past year, major steps forward have been taken, with the world’s two biggest economies — China and the US — announcing net-zero carbon emission commitments. The European Green Deal, aiming to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, is now being deployed, with a 55% CO2 reduction target by 2030 embedded in the European Climate Law.

Significant commitments must still be made, however, in the run up to COP26, during the conference, and through progressive coalitions and alliances once the conference comes to a close.

This is highlighted by the fact that the latest science shows emissions need to drop by half by 2030, and reach net zero by mid-century, to limit the temperature rise caused by global warming to well below 2°C — and, ideally, 1.5°C — as part of the Paris Agreement. Current policies in place are projected to put the world on course for a 2.9°C temperature rise by 2100.

Based on the findings of the 57th edition of the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI), here is our view of what the Glasgow conference must try to achieve, with seven markers of success.

Seven markers of success

1. A commitment from countries and regions to greater accountability and transparency

This could include unveiling road maps, with precise figures, on how participants will achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), as well as higher ambition in their NDCs, and details on the policy measures that will be used to spur investment in renewables. Reducing emissions to keep temperature rise well below 2°C on a pathway to clean electricity and green hydrogen would require up to US$130t of new investment between now and 2050, according to BloombergNEF.

2. More nations are making a commitment to achieve net zero by 2050

Currently, there are 29, plus the EU, with net zero by 2050 as a policy position. Success would include more countries and regions showing greater urgency by aiming to reach net-zero targets to before 2050 — as Finland (2035) and Austria (2040) have done. It could also mean going a step further and making their commitments law, not just a policy position — as Denmark, the UK, France and Sweden have done.

3. More market incentives

Achieving long-term decarbonization targets will require the activation of more market mechanisms and incentives, such as phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, implementing carbon prices or taxes, or tying recovery support to environmental performance. Of US$12t earmarked by the G20 to address the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, just one-quarter of the donors are dedicating funds to efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

4. A faster flow of climate finance 

This might include putting in place legislation mandating regulation on sustainable finance for banking, capital markets and non-bank financial institutions, and following France’s lead of legislating for mandatory climate reporting by asset owners and managers.

5. Developed countries and regions delivering on the $100b finance commitment

This commitment for climate action in developing regions could become the foundation of what is mobilized each year. Hopefully, the commitment from multilateral banks, such as the World Bank, to end fossil-fuel financing will be followed by all other major loan providers.

6. Follow-through on R&D

Leading developed nations would make good on their vow to increase research and development spending on clean energy to US$10b per year as part of Mission Innovation. So far, the effort has raised spending to just US$4.9b per year. 

7. Plans for resilience and loss

Nations would promise to build resilience and respond to loss and damage caused by climate change. This must include vows to empower locally led actions by the people and communities most affected by climate impacts. Also, where possible, it would leverage the power of nature-based solutions, such as protecting rainforests, mangroves and peatlands that can serve as carbon sinks.

An opportunity for action 

While ambitions are raised in the run-up to the conference, and in the coalitions that develop afterward, success for the Paris Agreement at COP26 will require nations to take a holistic approach to solving the climate conundrum.

Beyond raising mitigation goals, participants will need to incorporate adaptation to the impacts of climate change and build resilience by increasing transparency and accountability, while also empowering communities to take local-led action.

Many pieces of the puzzle will need to come together, but COP26 can provide the stage to accelerate meaningful action on achieving the aims of the Paris Agreement.

Summary

With COP26 on the horizon, delegates will know that maintaining the status quo on climate change is not an option; current policies will not achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nations will need to commit to more meaningful, holistic action in Glasgow if the world is to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. From raising the ambition of their national policies to delivering on spending promises, they must seize the opportunity presented by COP26 to realize the ambitions of Paris six years ago.