UK Presidency at COP26

by Elizaveta Nidzelskaya

In November 2021, the United Kingdom will host the 26th meeting of the Conference of Parties in Glasgow, in partnership with Italy. It will be the 5th COP since the Paris Agreement was signed and countries are due to publish their revised NDCs. Coming on the heels of COP25 which was marked by youth protests frustrated at the lack of progress, and the postponement of the summit from 2020 due to the pandemic, all eyes will be on the UK in November to get this right. We are at a crossroads in the history of international climate policy and this year’s COP has been labelled as ‘humanity’s last chance to avoid an environmental collapse’ [1]. 

The role of the host country is to preside over the negotiations, and work with the UNFCCC in the run up to the summit to set its agenda and ensure its implementation. The UK-Italy Presidency has set four goals for this year’s conference:

  1. ‘A step change in commitments to emissions reduction,
  2. Strengthening adaptation to climate change impacts,
  3. Getting finance flowing for climate action, and
  4. Enhancing international collaboration, including for the COP26 campaigns’, which are:
    • Adaptation and resilience
    • Nature
    • Energy transition
    • Clean road transport
    • Finance [2][3].

The UK is actively using its leverage to encourage progress on these goals through a major international engagement programme with state leaders, organisation representatives and civil society groups [4]. It has also launched multinational partnerships to discuss key issues, such as the Adaptation Action Coalition to ‘bring together countries to identify the solutions, technologies and resources needed to protect people and nature as the planet warms’ and the Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue (FACT) for importer and exporter countries to discuss how to make agricultural trade greener [5]. In addition, the ‘Together for Our Planet’ campaign was launched to raise awareness and understanding of COP26 across the UK [6].

Since the UK assumed the Presidency, its own climate policy has come under increased scrutiny. The UK was the first G7 country to make a net zero pledge, the fastest in the G20 to decarbonise its economy since 2000, and is set to double its international climate finance to £11.6 billion by 2025 [7]. However, some have accused the government of hypocrisy and greenwashing for brandishing its credentials as a world leader on climate change, while still engaging in polluting activities. The UK’s 10-point plan published in November 2020, setting out how net zero will be achieved, came under fire for insufficient ambition, while the recent approval of licenses to drill more oil and gas wells in the North Sea, ostensibly ‘compatible with the UK’s climate objectives’, has also drawn particular criticism [8].

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/sep/17/the-megafires-and-pandemic-expose-the-lies-that-frustrate-action-on-climate-change 
[2] https://ukcop26.org/pre-cop/ 
[3] https://ukcop26.org/uk-presidency/campaigns/ 
[4] https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-03-18/debates/21031834000011/COP26PresidencyGovernanceStructureAndParliamentaryAccountability 
[5] https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-03-18/debates/21031834000011/COP26PresidencyGovernanceStructureAndParliamentaryAccountability 
[6] https://together-for-our-planet.ukcop26.org/ 
[7] https://ukcop26.org/uk-presidency/uk-climate-leadership/ 
[8] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/24/uk-government-to-allow-new-north-sea-oil-and-gas-exploration 
Categories COP26/Europe

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