Achieving a successful COP; the role of the EU and Slovenia
/ By Nick Bridge, Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change, United Kingdom
This article was originally published as part of the 2021 edition of Bled Strategic Times, the official gazette of the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) international conference. You can access the full version of this and other BSF publications by visiting our official website.
The world has not been left wanting climate alarm bells. We are already seeing the effects of climate change on our doorstep. All over the world, extreme weather is on the march. From wildfires in North America to floods in China, across Europe and parts of Africa. And yet, our collective response continues to fall short of what is necessary.
August’s IPCC Report represented the most authoritative and comprehensive assessment to date of the physical science of climate change and it underlined an important home truth — that human activity is damaging our planet at an alarming rate.
But the future is not yet written. If we act now, the worst impacts of climate change can be averted. Science tells us that we must halve global emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 if we are to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius alive.
In November, the UK will host the crucial UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow. World leaders will meet with the aim to agree on how to tackle the urgent threat of global climate change.
Under the G7 and COP26 Presidencies, the UK has been working hard to drive real progress on a global scale to meet our four key goals with governments around the world:
First; we must increase global ambition to mitigate climate change. We must halve global emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. The UK presidency is addressing this by pressing for greater ambition on countries Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The G20 group of nations, who represent 80% of global emissions are critical to this goal. Yet only 13 of the G20 have committed to net-zero. And only 8 have submitted new NDCs that are more ambitious than their previous ones. This must change before COP26 in November. The IPCC report made clear that 1.5 degrees Celsius requires decarbonisation from every sector of the economy. At COP26, we will send a clear market signal to get the transition moving faster. We are focussing on four crucial areas: Power, Transport, Deforestation and Methane.
The second goal is adaptation. Climate disruption is now inevitable. And its impacts are fundamentally unequal. The world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities are on the frontline of climate change. We must work with those affected to build resilience through adaptation. And we must protect our natural environment from further destruction — biodiversity loss and climate change are interlinked and essential elements of sustainable development.
We are determined to take an ‘all of society’ approach to COP26 through working together with governments, civil society, businesses and youth.
Finance forms the third goal of our presidency. We are encouraging all private financial institutions to commit to net-zero by 2050. We are working with development banks, the MDBs, to mobilise finance to develop economies. And we are urging developed countries to honour their promise to raise $100 Billion a year in international climate finance. The UK alone has pledged £11.6 Billion in climate finance between 2021–2025. We call on other donor countries to match our ambition.
And finally — the fourth goal is collaboration. We are determined to take an ‘all of society’ approach to COP26 through working together with governments, civil society, businesses and youth. The inclusion and collective effort from all parts of society will be crucial in keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius alive.
These four goals are equally vital in our effort to avoid the worst effects of climate change and limit the rise of global temperatures. Our future depends on their delivery. This is what success at COP26 looks like.
The UK Presidency calls on all countries to take immediate action in delivering these goals. Addressing climate change is the single biggest global challenge of this century. It necessitates a global response; every country has an important role to play. The UK itself has a strong track record — decarbonising faster than any other country in the G20 over the last two decades. We have clear plans to reduce our emissions by 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2050. And we are increasingly seeing positive signals globally. Today, more than 70% of the world’s economy is now covered by a net zero target — up from 30% when the UK took over as incoming COP presidency. However, there remains much to do.
Regional groupings are an essential piece of the puzzle — as advocates for increased ambition, unifying voices in negotiations and internally as communicators of best practice. Nowhere is this more true than in the EU. Ambition is high — the announcement of an increase from 50 per cent to 55 per cent reduction on emissions reductions by 2030 (relative to 1990 levels) was a major step in meeting global climate goals and sent clear waves of ambition across the world. The EU has a strong track record — a crucial player in the Paris climate agreement and expert at convening high ambition coalitions. Resolving the thornier issues such as Article 6, on carbon markets, requires cooperation, flexibility and pragmatism. The EU, with a strong tradition of negotiations and influence, will be critical in helping address these. Internally, the climate agenda represents a great unifying opportunity. Climate action straddles the economy, society, development and the environment. The EU has a moment to come together as one under the banner of climate change, and pave a more prosperous, safer and climate secure future that we can all be proud of.
I know how important climate change and environmental protection is to Slovenia. Prior to coming to BSF, I climbed Mount Triglav to see for myself the ongoing impact of climate change. As holders of the EU presidency during COP26, Slovenia has the opportunity to make a big impact on the climate story. We look to Slovenia to support a strong outcome at COP26 and beyond, reinforced by a sustainable domestic commitment to climate change. Slovenia’s formal adoption of its Long Term Strategy for reaching net-zero by 2050 was an important milestone in this process. We look forward to working closely on key issues around the energy transition (including the phase-out of coal) and zero-emission vehicles.
I am delighted that the Bled Strategic Forum has used its convening power to address these issues, and I look forward to working closely with Slovene colleagues in the run-up to COP26 and beyond. Slovenia has a unique role to play as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union — both in leading by example and by prioritising climate change throughout their Presidency to ensure that the EU supports an ambitious negotiated outcome at the Summit.
Climate change is the defining challenge of this century. We will witness impacts across the board on magnitudes never before seen. To address this global challenge successfully, we must have a global response. Each and every country has a role to play. The world must work together to tackle climate change — to secure a successful outcome at Glasgow and to close off the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook — the UK, Slovenia and the EU will play a crucial role in achieving this.