Two years ago, at the last meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Madrid, none of us would have predicted that the world would look as it does today. As we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change no longer seems like a distant reality. Its impacts are in our streets, on our doorsteps, in our living rooms after a year of extreme and too-often fatal weather.
In just two weeks’ time, governments will meet in Glasgow for COP26. It’s set to be the most important meeting since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, heralded as the transition COP - the critical meeting that will move us from negotiation of policy to its implementation. This can’t happen fast enough. It’s the last chance governments have to commit to policies that can limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the most devastating, irreversible impacts of climate change.
A route to 1.5 °C must be agreed
The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) made clear that our route to a 1.5 °C, resilient future is narrowing. If we continue at current pace, we will pass 1.5°C by 2040 and reach 2°C warming by 2050: crucial tipping points after which time the effects of climate change on our environment will be irreversible.
Governments have been given the chance to strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term strategies (LTS) to ensure that they are in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. These must be backed with comprehensive, science-based and well-aligned national and sectoral policies, including at the subnational stakeholder level.
And nature must be part of our solution. Keep an eye out for our new policy brief on Nature-based Solutions, in collaboration with the IUCN, to be released on 5 November.
The latest round of updated NDCs showed that national commitments fall short of the action needed to reach a 1.5°C, resilient future. All updated NDCs were due to be submitted last week, with the final report release on 25 October set to provide the clearest picture of where we stand before COP.
All environmental action must be disclosed and tracked
Regulation on disclosure is a key driver of transparency and will help accelerate the transformation of capital markets and economies. But it’s also crucial that this regulation goes far enough to truly advance the environmental agenda and lead to real change.
We are calling on governments at COP26 to implement high-quality mandatory disclosure regimes – introduce regulation which builds on financial and risk-based data to incorporate impacts on people and planet.
It’s been positive to see more countries and regions moving in this direction in recent months, including the EU and Switzerland, and we hope to see more follow suit. In June, the G7 committed to introduce pathways towards mandatory disclosure in-line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), but expanding regulation to include broader environmental factors will be key to our ability to measure and manage environmental impacts.
A sustainable financial system must be created
The financial system is changing. Financial actors are beginning to realise the pivotal role in enabling and accelerating the transition to a net-zero economy in line with Paris goals. Governments must capitalize on this step-change and at COP26 lay the foundations of a sustainable financial system.
Beyond the delivery of developed nations' financial commitment of US$100 billion per year to developing countries, which is absolutely essential to finance climate action, a system-wide and seismic shift is needed to achieve a net-zero and resilient future.
Governments must ensure that public spending and fiscal policies are aligned with resilient, net-zero ambitions and public investments support and catalyse private sector initiatives. Regulators must ensure that capital markets reflect the relevance of the risks posed by environmental degradation on both people and planet. Financial market regulators, central banks and supervisors must allow actors to intervene to manage, supervise and regulate financial markets.
Capitalize on the momentum of corporate progress
Whilst the headlines are often bleak, solutions are available, technology exists and capital is ready to be allocated. There is huge mitigation and adaptation potential waiting to be unlocked. In 2021, we saw a record number of organisations disclosed through CDP and over 1800 companies have now set Science-based Targets. From April to September this year we’ve seen a doubling in commitments to the Business Ambition for 1.5 campaign. In the UK alone, holding the COP presidency, over 200 companies have signed up to the campaign.
Governments should be using the momentum of corporate progress to advance ambitious, net-zero aligned policies that tackle the broader environmental impact and provide companies and financial institutions with further clarity and confidence. This in turn strengthens the Ambition Loop: a positive feedback loop where private sector and government action reinforce each other in building a truly resilient and sustainable future.
National governments must also work with subnational government. Cities are telling us that they need more from national policymakers to convert ambition into implementation, with CDP’s latest report ‘Working Together to Beat the Climate Crisis’ highlighting the collaboration needed across all levels of government.
CDP will continue to engage with policymakers globally to drive forward these much-needed outcomes. Throughout COP26 we will be hosting a series of virtual events and events in the Blue Zone to raise ambition and accelerate environmental action. I hope to see you there.