Ethny Childs
18 August 2020

Our road to COP26

The latest heatwave in the UK saw the hottest day in August in 17 years and served as a stark reminder of the climate crisis and the effect it is having on the UK's weather patterns. A recent Met Office report outlines that climate change, driven by industrial society, is having an increasing impact on the UK's weather. The report confirmed that 2019 was the 12th warmest year in a series from 1884 (including a new maximum temperature record being set in the UK of 38.7C). Furthermore, UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2019 found that if all current climate pledges are met, the world is heading for a 3.2C temperature rise, far from the Paris Agreement aspirations of limiting warming to 1.5C and Earth Overshoot Day passed on the 22nd August, highlighting the need to a transition for a sustainable society. This year will see a small dip in emissions due to the COVID-19 crisis, but it is essential that recovery from the crisis has climate considerations embedded from the outset.

The UK is due to host COP26, the 26th meeting of the UN's annual climate change summit, in Glasgow between 1st - 12th November 2021, following postponement due to COVID-19. The summit is widely considered to be the most important COP since the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement was reached at COP21, aiming to address the gap between the Paris Agreement aspirations and the targets to which countries have so far committed.

The postponement means that COP26 will now take place after the ‘by 2020’ deadline for numerous components of the Paris Agreement. This is the first year in which countries are due to present new ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) – pledges outlining how they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades. The UN has recently urged nations that despite the postponement, they should still submit their updated NDCs 6-12 months before the conference.

The themes for COP26 are yet to be fully confirmed, but COP26 president and UK secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Alok Sharma stated that "we have defined a number of key themes for COP26, which include transition to clean energy, clean transport, nature based solutions, adaptation and resilience and of course bringing it all together, finance" at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in June.

The IES and COP26

In the lead up to COP26, the IES is focussed on championing the work of professionals in the environmental sciences, promoting the work of experts and evidence around climate change and driving change to ensure adaptation measures are accurate, ambitious and achievable. We believe that promoting a systems-level approach to environmental challenges is integral to achieving our ambitions and are committed to bringing professionals with a range of expertise together around a shared goal. It is with this in mind that we will be establishing a new COP26 community, who will work collaboratively with us to support our members involved in COP26 and those working in related areas through tailored discussions, events and resources.

We are looking for practitioners and researchers with expertise in climatology, the vulnerability of natural and socio-economic systems to climate change, adaptation and mitigation strategies (including climate resilience), behavioural and social sciences, and stakeholder engagement. We would be particularly interested in individuals with policy experience and involvement in previous COPs. If you are interested in contributing your time and expertise to assist us in our work around COP26 please get in touch.

COP26 news and updates

To keep our members up to date with the latest news and updates on COP26, we will be periodically adding to the list below as new information becomes available:

  • Arup has been appointed the sustainability consultant for COP26. Arup, in partnership with Crowberry Consulting, will advise the government on all aspects of sustainability, including developing a Carbon Management Plan to build a sustainable supply chain.
  • It has been announced that COP26 will only receive sponsorship from companies that have set “ambitious net zero commitments by 2050 or earlier”