The COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, will take place from 31 October to 12 November 2021 in Glasgow. COP26 is considered the most important UN climate meeting since Paris in 2015, when nations agreed to the goal of keeping global temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Leaders from around the world across the private and public sectors will gather in Glasgow to discuss working together to build a net zero future.

In our previous article on the promises and problems to be resolved at COP26, we explored the key points relevant to Australia. Since then, the Federal Government has released Australia’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan*, a technology-driven plan by which the government commits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  • by up to 35% below 2005 levels by 2030; and
  • to reach net zero by 2050.

*A summary of the Plan can be found here: ‘The Plan to Deliver Net Zero: The Australian Way’

With this Plan hot off the press, the world will be closely watching the international stage during the conference and we will be providing an update on the outcomes in its wake.

Over the next two weeks, we will release daily updates on the key events and outcomes at COP26.

Each day of the conference is scheduled to focus on a different theme, beginning with finance and energy before moving to youth and public empowerment, science and infrastructure:

  • Day 1 and 2 – Monday 1 November and Tuesday 2 November: World Leaders’ Summit will begin, a two-day event which will include statements on the need to tackle climate change from various heads of state. Government leaders will be invited to put forward their proposals on limiting carbon emissions and keeping the 1.5C warming target within reach.
  • Day 3 – Wednesday 3 November: ‘Finance: Mobilising public and private finance flows at scale for mitigation and adaptation’, focusing on the financial and economic aspects of climate policy. The morning event will be led by Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy and the UK Prime Minister’s Finance Advisor for COP26.
  • Day 4 – Thursday 4 November: ‘Energy: Accelerating the global transition to clean energy’, including the transition away from coal power, scaling up clean power and increasing energy efficiency.
  • Day 5 – Friday 5 November: ‘Youth and public empowerment’, providing a voice to young people at the conference.
  • Day 6 – Saturday 6 November: ‘Nature: Ensuring the importance of nature and sustainable land use are part of global action on climate change and a clean, green recovery’.
  • Day 7 – Sunday 7 November: Rest day.
  • Day 8 – Monday 8 November: ‘Adaptation, loss and damage: Delivering the practical solutions needed to adapt to climate impact and address loss and damage’.
  • Day 9 – Tuesday 9 November: The first event will be ‘Gender: Progressing gender equality and the full and meaningful participation of women and girls in climate action’. The second will be ‘Science and innovation: Demonstrating that research and technology can deliver climate solutions to meet, and accelerate, increased ambition’.
  • Day 10 – Wednesday 10 November: ‘Transport: Driving the global transition to zero emission transport’.
  • Day 11: Thursday 11 November: ‘Cities, Regions and Built Environment: Advancing action in the places we live, from communities, through to cities and regions’.
  • Day 12: Friday 12 November: The conference will close.
  • By - Anneka Thomson

    Day 12 – Friday 12 November 2021

    Today marks the closure of negotiations at COP26. 

    After two intense weeks of talks covering a range of topics, some of the key outcomes have been:

    1. pressure on countries to ramp up their 2030 emissions reduction targets, with India finally coming to the table with a net zero target—by 2070;
    2. a pledge to reduce methane emissions under the ‘Global Methane Pledge’ and the agreement of 190 countries (though not Australia) to phase out coal power throughout the 2030s and 2040s; and
    3. calls for greater climate adaptation financing, with the target of $100 billion per annum set to be increased as developing countries demand more support.

    Negotiations continue on in the background to finalise an overarching COP26 agreement, the draft text for which was published on Day 10, as well as work out the mechanics of some of the finer points of the Paris Agreement, such as the practical operation of Article 6.

  • By - Anneka Thomson

    Day 11 – 11 November 2021

    COP26 is moving to a close but today the Zero Emission Vehicles Transition Council announced its 2022 Action Plan, which identifies areas for collaboration to move towards zero emissions vehicles, covering:

    1. charging infrastructure, with a dedicated taskforce focusing on how to deploy such infrastructure and the requirements of electricity grids to facilitate this;
    2. development of fuel efficiency standards and regulations;
    3. heavy vehicle transition to zero emissions, with a focus on technological options for doing so; and
    4. ensuring the zero emissions vehicle transition is a global transition.
  • By - Amelia Arndt and Anneka Thomson

    Day 10 – 10 November 2021

    As COP26 has progressed, negotiations between countries aimed at realising the goals of the Paris Agreement have been occurring in the background. Today the ‘draft text’ of the negotiations was published, which indicates the direction taken.  Once finalised and accepted by all parties, this text will have legal force as an international agreement.  The draft text raises the following key points:

    1. focus must remain on mitigating emissions and limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – anything beyond that will cause irreversible damage;
    2. the importance of adaptation will increase as climate change impacts snowball, with enhanced international support required to help developing countries adapt;
    3. climate finance for adaptation (the current target being $100 billion annually) is insufficient and developed countries should provide more financing; and
    4. coal must be phased out faster.  Countries should revisit their 2030 climate plans by the end of 2022, with a proposed meeting of world leaders planned for 2023 to review those plans.  On that note and separately from the draft text, the US and China announced a deal to enhance cooperation between the two countries to phase out coal and reduce emissions, including methane.

    Additionally, today saw three declarations relating to:

    1. vehicles: national, regional and local governments, as well as businesses and industry signatories, agreed to ‘work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emission globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets’.  Australia is not a signatory.  Given its large landmass and remote communities, any move to zero emissions vehicles will likely require more thought than simply electrifying all vehicles.
    2. aviation: the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition, a coalition of 23 countries (not including Australia) who are signatories to the Paris Agreement and contracting states to the Convention on International Civil Aviation 1944, held its inaugural meeting and signed a declaration supporting the development of aviation emissions targets aligning with the Paris Agreement, with the aim of net zero by 2050 and targets for sustainable aviation fuel and carbon offsets / reduction schemes. 
    3. shipping routes: Australia signed the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors, under which countries agreed to support the ‘establishment of green shipping corridors – zero-emission maritime routes between 2 (or more) ports’, with the aim of creating at least 6 of these corridors by the mid-2030s.  

    Despite the apparent gains made at COP26, Climate Action Tracker has predicted that pledges from countries attending the summit will still lead to warming increases of around 2.4 degrees Celsius this century.

  • By - Jim Power

    Day 9 – 9 November 2021

    Day 9 was expectedly dominated by government pledges as the Ministerial negotiation week continues. Australia did make some commitments despite not being represented by a Minister at the Conference. 

    Australia has committed to leading the Net Zero Industries Mission and being a supporting member for the Carbon Dioxide Removal Mission through the Mission Innovation program (see Day 3 update). The initiative outlines four new missions that seek to bring industry and government together ‘to catalyse investment to accelerate technologies’. The four new missions join existing missions in hydrogen, shipping and power systems and include:

    1. Net Zero Industries Mission (Australia co-lead with Austria) – a pledge to reduce emissions for heavy industries like steel, cement and chemicals. Further information is expected to be published in 2022; 
    2. Carbon Dioxide Removal Mission (Australia supporting member) – a pledge to accelerate CO2 removal technologies;
    3. Urban Transitions – a pledge to have large-scale projects by 2030 that demonstrate how cities can adapt to decarbonised norms; and
    4. Biorefineries Mission – an initiative to seek bio-based alternatives to help reduce emissions for the steel, cement and chemicals industries. 

    The Break Through Agenda’s (see Day 2 update) Global Checkpoint System was announced for 2022, which seeks to garner international collaboration and accountability by implementing a quarterly review and reporting system with explicit deliverables, including monitoring progress of the Glasgow Breakthroughs announced last week. Progress will be assessed and reported on by the IEA, IRENA and the United Nations High Level Climate Action Champions. 

    Australia has failed to join traditional allies the US and UK along with around 50 other countries who signed a pledge to reduce emissions in the healthcare sectors and secure health infrastructure against climate change. 

    Australia was again heavily criticised for its approach to climate change as it was once more ranked last out of 64 nations for climate policy, and 58th out of 64 overall in the annual Climate Change Performance Index. The report noted Australia’s decision not to introduce any new policies in support of its net zero pledge at COP26 as a notable disappointment. Meanwhile, the EU has called on richer nations such as Australia to do more to ensure COP26 succeeds in reducing emissions. Dutch member Bas Eickhout was more explicit in his disappointment with Australia when he described the Morrison government’s pledge as ‘literally a brochure’. 

  • By - Jim Power

    Day 8 – 8 November 2021

    Day 8 was relatively quiet as negotiators work around the clock in an effort to keep the Conference on its timetable. 

    • Angus Taylor announced late on Sunday that he is leaving the Conference. The departure of Australia’s Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reductions comes at a time when many Ministers from member nations are arriving for the second week of negotiations, which are intended to be driven by those Ministers. Angus Taylor’s departure means Australia now has no ministerial representation at the Conference.
    • The ACT Government has signed the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement, which was introduced on Day 5 of the Conference. The ACT Government is the only Australian government to sign the statement, which involves 4 key commitments:
    1. rapid scale up of clean power generation;
    2. rapid scale up of technologies and policies within this decade to successfully transition away from coal power;
    3. cease issuance of new permits for coal-fired power generation projects that have not yet reached financial close; and
    4. strengthen domestic and international efforts to provide the framework and support required to transition away from unabated coal power. 
    • The Chair of the UK’s Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben, has criticised the Morrison government’s decision not to move away from coal. Lord Deben labelled Australia’s performance at COP26 ‘a great disappointment to the rest of the world’ and accused the Prime Minister of failing to ‘understand the urgency of what we have to do’ and the need to transition away from coal. The criticism preceded an announcement from the Morrison government on Monday in which it reaffirmed its commitment to coal by announcing feasibility funding for a clean hydrogen project, the product of which the Prime Minister suggested ‘can be used in coal-fired power plants’. Lord Deben also warned that as the effects of climate change begin to take hold, ‘people are simply not going to be prepared to trade with countries that don’t meet the same standards.’
  • By - Giorgia Fraser, Anneka Thomson and Danielle Lukic

    Day 7 – 7 November 2021

    Despite being a rest day in Glasgow, the presidency of the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow released a summary of negotiating points titled “Presidency summary of possible elements identified by Parties for inclusion”. The document states that a key goal of the Conference is to tighten global emission reductions by 2030, and that “parties who have not yet submitted enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions [are] expected to do so in 2022″. Our previous article explains that NDCs are voluntary emissions reduction goals that signatories are expected to formally submit to the UN’s climate body and then improve upon every five years. This is known as the “ratchet mechanism” and is designed to steadily increase reductions goals. 

    Heading into COP26, Australia simply resubmitted the goal it first set in Paris of reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030. In comparison, the US doubled its original goals. If the proposal to require parties who have not yet submitted enhanced NDCs to do so in 2022 is adopted, it would affect countries such as Australia that did not improve their original target. 

  • By - Giorgia Fraser, Anneka Thomson and Danielle Lukic

    Days 5 and 6 - 5 and 6 November 2021

    Friday and Saturday of COP26 were devoted to the importance of educating and giving a voice to youth and the public in relation to climate action, as well as looking at the transition being driven by farmers, communities and businesses towards sustainable management and restoration of nature. YOUNGO, the Official Children’s and Youth constituency of the UNFCCC, presented the COY16 Global Youth Position statement, representing the views of over 40,000 young climate leaders from across the world. The statement presented their priorities directly to Ministers, including action on climate finance, mobility and transportation, through to wildlife protection conservation.

    On Friday, the International Energy Agency reacted positively to the emissions pledges made at COP26. The IEA director, stated that “New IEA analysis shows that fully achieving all net zero pledges to date and the Global Methane Pledge by those who signed it would limit global warming to 1.8C”. This has since been challenged by Selwin Hart, the special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on climate action, who said that “based on the nationally determined contributions that have been submitted, the world is on a 2.7 degree pathway – a catastrophic pathway”. Watch this space.

    No major policy outcomes arose from these two days. 

  • By - Anneka Thomson

    Day 4 – 4 November 2021

    Today was marked by two internationally-supported statements committing to a clean energy future, neither of which Australia signed:

    1. 190 countries have committed to phasing out coal power by scaling up technologies and policies that allow a move away from coal power generation throughout the 2030s and 2040s, as well as agreeing not to issue new permits for coal power plants.  Australia is not a signatory to the deal, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison firm in his belief Australia can reach net zero by 2050 without ending coal power.
    2. Fourteen countries, along with the European Commission, signed a statement supporting a just global transition to a clean energy future, including respect for human rights and support for local sustainable jobs.  Again, Australia is a notable absence, given other countries like Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United States have signed up.
  • By - Anneka Thomson and Lara Borshoff

    Day 3 – 3 November 2021

    COP26 was all about finance today:

    1. An update on the Mission Innovation – Breakthrough Energy Collaboration Agreement was announced, an agreement between Mission Innovation (launched by world leaders at COP21) and Breakthrough Energy (Bill Gates-backed) focused on increasing clean energy technology investment.  The partnership has been expanded to focus on increasing private and public sector collaboration, with the aim of commercialising clean energy technologies more rapidly by increasing research and development and early investment in promising technologies. 
    2. Former Bank of England governor Mark Carney has coordinated an initiative (“Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero”) to mobilise some 450 organisations (such as banks and insurers) together controlling two-fifths or $130 trillion of the world’s assets to focus investment in clean technologies by increasing access to easy and cheap money for green initiatives, committing to net zero emissions across investment portfolios by 2050.  

    Looking back on the World Leaders’ Summit over the past two days, 151 countries have updated their Nationally Determined Contributions (a country’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions), including Australia due to its commitment to reach net zero by 2050.  The result is that these commitments now cover some 90% of global emissions.  During the Summit, Fortescue Future Industries’ CEO Julie Shuttleworth AM was one of only six CEOs to address world leaders, focusing on the potential for green hydrogen to be globally significant by the end of this decade.

  • By - Giorgia Fraser and Lara Borshoff

    Day 2 - 2 November 2021

    There was positive direction for COP26 on the second day of the World Leaders’ Summit, including new emissions and finance announcements. 

    1. More than 100 countries, including 15 major emitters, backed US President Joe Biden’s initiative to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent this decade. The Global Methane Pledge represents 40% of global methane emissions and 60% of the global GDP. Unfortunately, Australia is not one of the supporters. This was the first time a COP in recent history has hosted a major event on methane. 
    2. World leaders, including Australia, endorsed the Breakthrough Agenda - a commitment to work together internationally this decade to accelerate the development and deployment of the clean technologies and sustainable solutions needed to meet Paris Agreement goals, ensuring they are affordable and accessible for all.  This agenda will be discussed at future meetings of global leaders and a review of global progress will be undertaken in 2022.
    3. Further to yesterday’s announcement, over 100 countries pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 and to collectively provide US$12 billion for forest-related climate finance between 2021-2025.
    4. Australia joined the Green Grid Initiative - One Sun One World One Grid Steering Committee, the vision of which is to combine efforts to create a more inter-connected global grid and develop an action agenda for global cooperation to achieve that vision.
    5. The Multilateral Development Banks released a joint statement in relation to ‘Nature, People and Planet’. The joint MDB group, made up of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other leading MDBs, issued the high-level statement to affirm their commitment to mainstreaming nature considerations into their policies, analysis, assessments, advice, investments, and operations.
  • By - Anneka Thomson and Shay Kiriakidis

    Day 1 - 1 November 2021

    The first day of the World Leaders’ Summit at COP26 saw early wins for the environment with:

    1. over 100 world leaders (including Brazil) agreeing to end deforestation by 2030, as well as provide funding to protect forests, such a commitment covering around 85% of Earth’s forests; and
    2. India’s prime minister committing to net zero by 2070. Although the aim of COP26 was that all countries agree to net zero by 2060, this is nevertheless a big step forward, coming from a country that has previously refused to embrace net zero ambitions.

    Colombia’s Mining & Energy Minister also shone a spotlight on the need for a just transition, stating that electricity needs to be supplied to those still living without it.  Meanwhile the UK was criticised for granting new oilfield licences and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a carbon price.  

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison has used his address at the Summit to announce an additional $500 million for international climate finance, bringing Australia’s total contribution to $2 billion.  This funding relates to an agreement made by developed nations at COP15 in 2009 to jointly mobilise $100 billion per year from 2020 to support the efforts of developing nations in addressing climate change and its impacts.  Analysts consider it unlikely that this target has been met, though we won’t definitively know until 2022.  

  • By - Anneka Thomson

    Procedural Opening of Negotiations - 31 October 2021

    COP26 kicked off in Glasgow, with conference president Alok Sharma calling it “our last best hope” to meet the aim of the Paris Agreement of 1.5 to 2 degrees warming.  Over the next two days world leaders are expected to present and increase their nationally determined contributions towards limiting global warming.  Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will be notable absences from those talks.  Other world leaders have arrived in Glasgow hot off the heels of the G20 Summit in Rome, where the rhetoric was around limiting climate change—with leaders urging “meaningful and effective action".