Postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, COP26 will finally be held in Glasgow this November, under the UK presidency in partnership with Italy. The two countries also hosted the G7 and G20 summits this year, this was an intentional effort from the UN to treat climate issues with the same level of urgency as economic recovery.
2021 is an important year for international climate negotiations as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the signatory Parties of the Paris Agreement have been renewed and will be discussed for the first time since COP21, as part of the five-year Global Stocktake. However, the first synthesis report of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) warns that the window for action is narrowing if we want to achieve the Paris goals. Indeed, the NDCs of all 191 countries imply a 16% increase in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings, such an increase could lead to a global temperature rise of about 2.7°C by the end of the century.
The COP26 presidency urges all countries to increase their NDCs via national measures. Both Italy and the UK have committed to achieving net zero by 2050, and the UK has also committed to phasing out coal by 2025 and to ending the sale of combustion vehicles by 2030.
What results would make COP26 a success?
- Strengthened NDCs by 2030, aligned with net zero
The latest IPCC report shows that to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, global GHG emissions must reach net zero by mid-century. Only by significantly strengthening climate action by 2030 can we make this objective possible. To date, half of the countries have not yet revised their NDCs, including some high-emitting countries such as China and India. The European Union has, in accordance with the Climate Pact, already revised its NDC in favour of carbon neutrality by 2050; the “Fit for 55” package sets out the measures needed to achieve this goal.
In accordance with Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, governments must also formulate long-term emissions reduction strategies. Broken down into sectoral roadmaps, these strategies are an expected point of discussion during COP26 since only 33 countries have submitted theirs, despite the 2020 deadline.
- An agreement on climate finance
In 2009 in Copenhagen, developed countries pledged to mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to support developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change. This commitment was extended for 5 years at COP21, and climate finance was endorsed in Article 9 of the Betting Agreement. However, just under US$80 billion in public and private financing was mobilized in 2019 according to OECD figures, significantly eroding trust between developed and developing countries.
In addition, governments will have to reach an agreement on the extension of the Long-Term Climate Finance (LTF) work programme or define an additional process, if necessary, to supervise the financial flow until 2025. The post-2025 roadmap will also have to be decided.
- A roadmap for climate change adaptation
Faced with increasingly frequent extreme weather events, enhanced and coordinated adaptation actions, as well as technical and financial support to the most affected countries, are needed. The Adaptation Committee, created in 2010, is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCICC) body dedicated to the adaptation component of the Paris Agreement and agreed on a work programme for 2022-2024 during its 20th meeting on 10 September.
During the COP26, the Committee will have to provide a progress assessment regarding the effectiveness of its action. In addition, each country has submitted an Adaptation Communication which constitutes their adaptation roadmap, identifying planned measures and requirements.
- An agreement on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement
Article 6 gives countries the opportunity to rely on international cooperation to reach and exceed their NDCs, in the form of market-based or non-market-based mechanisms (carbon markets). In other words, this cooperation would allow countries investing in emission reduction projects in other countries to count these reductions towards the achievement of their own targets.
For some, Article 6 offers a way to significantly increase climate ambition by reducing mitigation costs and mobilising private sector financing. For others, however, bad regulation of Article 6 risks undermining the Paris Agreement’s ambition by allowing for the double counting of emission reductions, or the emission of low-quality carbon credits. 
Constituting the last piece of the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement to be resolved after the adoption of the rest of the regulation at the end of 2018, an agreement on the operationalisation of Article 6 is eagerly awaited at COP26 in the context of the necessary acceleration of climate ambition.
Expectations for COP26 are extremely high but between the recent extreme weather events and stark warnings from the scientific community, so are the stakes. We hope that global governments can come together and lead on climate, setting ambitious legislation and clear frameworks to map a defined route to net zero.
 Assessed NDCs includes information from 86 updated or new NDCs submitted by 113 Parties, i.e. about 49% of global GHG emissions – Full NDC Synthesis Report | UNFCCC
 According to the IPCC, net zero means that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a given period.
 IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. p.6.
 The Work Programme on Long-Term Climate Finance (LTF) aims to quantify the progress of developed countries within the meaning of the UNCICC in climate finance and to inform developing countries (biennial communications, portal dedicated online, workshops and biennial ministerial dialogues…)
 To go further, see Carbon Brief. In-depth Q&A: How ‘Article 6’ carbon markets could ‘make or break’ the Paris Agreement. November 2019.