COP26 - What is it and why should we pay attention?

The start of the COP26 in Glasgow offers us all an opportunity to reflect on climate change and the role we play in preventing it. But what is COP26? And why should we pay attention, both as individuals and as a company? Below, we run through the aims of COP26 and what outcomes we can likely expect throughout the next couple of weeks.

What is a COP?

COP – Conference of the Parties – is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference to be held in Glasgow between 31st Oct – 12th Nov 2021. It is the 26th annual summit or COP where world leaders, climate experts, government representatives and campaigners are meeting to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change. This year’s COP follows COP21 in Paris where the legally binding Paris Agreement stated the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees and set other targets. Another important condition of the Paris Agreement was that every 5-years, countries would come back with an updated, more ambitious plan. So, here we are.

What are the goals?

Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:

    • accelerate the phase-out of coal
    • curtail deforestation
    • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
    • encourage investment in renewables.

Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:

    • protect and restore ecosystems
    • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives

Mobilise finance

To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020. 

International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

At COP26 we must:

    • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
    • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

Why should we pay attention?

Recent years have showed how the effects of climate change are felt across the globe – flooding, wildfires, storms and droughts – are increasing in both frequency and intensity. Such events cause widespread environmental and economic destruction and force more and more people into poverty.

COP26 presents the most important – and possibly one of the last – great opportunities to prevent irreversible climate change and the catastrophic impacts on both people and planet. A cohesive, worldwide effort is required to make the necessary changes. This must encompass all countries but also extend to businesses and communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that when faced with a global threat, we must act as a collective

The Construction and Built Environment Sectors account for 38% of global carbon emissions and over half of the UK’s total emissions. COP26 will hold a ‘Construction: The Built Environment’ event focussing how the industry can reduce its emissions and meet net zero targets. The industry will not only play a major role in achieving these targets but will also be crucial in efforts to protect communities and natural habitats from the negative effects of climate change. It is critical that the sector and businesses that operate within it align themselves with the COP26 goals and develop realistic strategies to achieve them.

As a company which is built upon the values of sustainability, innovation and collaboration, CRL will be paying close attention to the COP26 outcomes and will grasp the opportunity to improve our own practice. We pride ourselves on embracing sustainable solutions, but we are not complacent and recognise there is always room for improvement.

We have developed our Environmental and Sustainability Policy Statement and our Carbon Reduction Plan to reach targets such as Net Zero by 2050. We have strategies to reach such targets on time or as early as possible. But we can always do more and will continuously evaluate our practices and strive to deliver results faster. COP26 and the conversations surrounding it give opportunity for reflection of our progress so far and examination of what our next steps are and should be.

What outcomes can we expect from COP26?

We can expect countries to update their climate actions plans to be more ambitious as they now must every 5-years under the Paris Agreement. Specifically, these action plans will be amended to make the achievement of the COP26 goals more realistic. We should also expect COP26 to affect businesses as they will likely be asked to step it their efforts and us as individuals as any new policies or actions are implemented.

 COP26 offers optimism for the future – younger generations are calling on world leaders to protect their futures. We have seen greater collaboration between countries and businesses to drive innovation and best practice, the construction industry is a great example of that. The industry is heading in the right direction – and hopefully with renewed urgency following COP26 – will be made great strides in helping to tackle climate change.

By Joe Came – Social Value & Sustainability Manager / 07557 153923

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