Climate Change strategy and the impact of delaying the COP26

Net Zero Strategy

Climate Change strategy and the impact of delaying the COP26

Postponing a conference representing a vital chance to focus on tackling climate change may be perceived as counterproductive but could a delay to the climate conference have some benefits?

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated global politics and as a result, the momentum and awareness related to climate awareness have dropped, and it seems that tackling climate change is falling on the mounting list of priorities for political leaders. 

It took over two years of significant work and preparation to ensure the Government had the appropriate plans in place to deliver the Paris Agreement. Many of the biggest emitters are heavily focused on tackling COVID-19, but the delay in COP26 may yield some interesting results.

There have been many reports to show that the response in China has resulted in a significant decline in carbon emissions, mainly due to a halt to industrial processes and considerably less traffic. With many countries closing borders and flights being cancelled, global transport emissions are anticipated to massively decline.

COVID-19 could support us in reconsidering our approach towards travel, with alternative video and digital technology becoming normality. Interestingly global summits usually involve large volumes of private flights with COP involving multiple private flights in and out of Switzerland, carrying attendees and representatives of the event. In terms of aviation, the industry has committed to decreasing emissions with members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreeing to make and further growth in international flights after 2020 carbon neutral. With COVID-19 effectively grounding most flights, emissions from the aviation industry will decline further, meaning airlines will be forced to offset more emissions and focus on enhancing efficiency levels in the years to come.

From a political perspective, the US announcement of their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was probably the most significant announcement. Trump has already confirmed that, if he is to be re-elected, he would continue with this promise. The withdrawal plan would commence on the 3rd of November, one day after the 2020 election and just a week before COP26 was due to start. If the democrats were to win the next election, it is quite possible that they may look to keep the U.S. within the global agreement, enhancing the global efforts of tackling the climate emergency. Delaying COP26 to 2021 would mean the U.S and the U.K would be better placed to drive climate action. 

Other nations such as China are a key part of the climate negotiations. Regarded as the world’s largest emitter, China has developed a leading position on decarbonisation in recent years but has shown signs of scaling back its efforts. The CBD summit planned for September is a similar meeting to Paris focusing on eradicating ecological damage and biodiversity loss. Ecological experts in the UK have highlighted that this represents a great opportunity for the UK to reach out to China to assess climate strategies, incorporating biodiversity and nature as a core theme. 

The RSPB has explained that nature is one theme for COP26 and the organisation believes that there is a clear message that needs to be highlighted which ensures we tackle climate change by focusing on our biodiversity and ecosystems. The RSPB explains that ecosystems play an important role in managing carbon levels, but emphasises that this needs to be an added area combined with eliminating fossil fuels and not simply offsetting businesses.

As nations begin to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see how green-focused the stimulus packages will be. These nations have the opportunity to prioritise clean energy in industrial and economic strategies in the post-coronavirus phase.

There are still many areas that need to be addressed before pushing forward with the next stage of the global climate agreement. Developed nations are lagging behind on scheduled financial commitment and these will need to be resolved before the UK proceeds with climate discussions. Other analysts highlight that the UK needs to ensure everything is in order before successfully implementing a global climate agreement. 

The pandemic has resulted in delays to many of the steps the nation intends to take to reach net-zero, including slow development to the National Infrastructure Strategy. Comprehensive national legislation will be required to successfully implement net-zero targets and to show to other nations that the UK is taking the net-zero approach very seriously. Announcing targets is one thing, but these goals need to be reinforced with clear plans to ensure the UK maintains its climate credibility and gains the support and confidence of other nations worldwide. 

With most countries heavily focused on managing COVID-19, trying to accelerate plans associated with the climate agreement isn’t necessarily going to be the right decision. Admittedly, many scientists would argue that time is running thin on implementing decisive actions to tackle climate change but launching a deal in with comprehensive planning may be detrimental to our long term climate plans.

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