From 31 October to 12 November 2021, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference will take place in Glasgow. The conference had to be postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One focus of the negotiations will be to complete the detailed rules and regulations of the Paris Climate Agreement. Among other things, specifications for the use of market-based instruments are to be adopted. At the same time, the conference is an important opportunity for the parties to strengthen the ambition of their climate protection efforts. Since the beginning of the UN climate process, the Wuppertal Institute has continuously been observing the ongoing negotiations and analysing the results. During various side events, it presents its research and discusses concrete ways to implement the Paris Climate Agreement.
Presided over by the United Kingdom, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Glasgow, Scotland. This year's climate conference is taking place under challenging conditions: After the conference had to be postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, expectations are high that it will produce concrete resolutions and also revised climate protection targets from the participating countries. In the course of the year, a global series of extreme weather events once again emphasised the urgency of action. At the same time, holding the climate conference in times of a pandemic also poses an organisational challenge: The health safety of the approximately 25,000 participants must be ensured without excluding representatives of certain countries or civil society actors from participating. After all, the annual climate conferences are an important opportunity to stress the urgency of climate policy action and to drive forward the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Increasing ambition in climate protection
With the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the international community set itself the goal of limiting the increase of the average global temperature since the start of the industrialisation to well below 2 degrees Celsius and even aims to limit it to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the pledges made so far by the Agreement's parties, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), are not sufficient to achieve the 1.5 degree limit, although some parties have already submitted new or revised contributions. It remains to be seen whether additional revised NDCs will be submitted during the climate conference. In addition to revised NDCs, those countries that have not yet done so should submit their long-term low greenhouse gas development strategiesf. Industrialised countries are also expected to make more far-reaching pledges to provide finance, which the poorest countries in particular rely on to strengthen their climate change efforts.
"Glasgow must send a clear signal for an increase in ambition and initiate the decade of implementation," emphasises Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick, Scientific Managing Director of the Wuppertal Institute, and adds: "Countries must now bring their climate protection targets in line with the 1.5-degree limit and close the ambition gap by 2030. The Paris Agreement makes revisions possible: Parties can submit revised NDCs to the UNFCCC at any time. At the same time, implementation of the mitigation plans already adopted must be accelerated. This is the only way compliance with the 1.5-degree limit remains within reach."
Gaps in the Paris rulebook
One focus of the negotiations in Glasgow will be to complete the detailed rulebook for the Paris Agreement. Rules on most aspects of the agreement could already be adopted at the climate conference in Katowice, Poland, in 2018. However, what has remained open is the design of the cooperation mechanisms under Article 6 of the agreement. These mechanisms are intended to allow countries to cooperate in the implementation of their contributions and transfer emission reductions. A uniform time frame for national climate protection contributions and details of how states are to report on their implementation within the new transparency framework have also yet to be agreed. At the last climate conference in Madrid in 2019, the signatory states failed to adopt clear rules here. However, as these benchmarks are of great importance for the full implementation of the agreement, closing these gaps will be the focus of the Glasgow negotiations.
"The rules of the cooperation mechanisms established under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement are crucial," stresses Wolfgang Obergassel, Co-Head of the Research Unit Global Climate Governance at the Wuppertal Institute. “The requirements for Article 6 must ensure that the use of the cooperation mechanisms actually leads to additional climate protection and can contribute to an increase in ambition," says Obergassel. Merely shifting reductions from one country to another is not sufficient, he says. And potential loopholes that could undermine the environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement must also be closed: "Double counting of emission reductions must be avoided. Establishing robust rules can prevent the same reduction from being counted more than once – by the state in which the specific climate protection measures are implemented on the one hand, and by the foreign investor on the other hand. It must also be ensured that only measures that make an additional contribution to climate protection and also deliver positive ecological and social sustainability contributions are promoted," adds the scientist.
The Wuppertal Institute provides important impetus with side events
The Wuppertal Institute is holding a series of side events at COP26 to present its research and stimulate discussions with delegates and practice partners. The side events reflect topics that will be negotiated in Glasgow, such as the design of the rules on market-based instruments under Article 6. In addition, the discussions focus on how climate protection measures can be designed in a socially equitable way and how the transition to a carbon-free economy can succeed while taking sustainability aspects into account.
Analysis of the conference results
The Wuppertal Institute will publish a first assessment of the results shortly after the conference. A detailed analysis report will follow in early 2022. Further information on COP26 and the side events can be found in the links below.
Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH
Responsible for content: Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick, Scientific Managing Director
Contact: Christin Hasken, Head of Communications
Tel.: +49 202 2492-187