The UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) being held in Glasgow, Scotland during the first two weeks of November, is an opportunity for signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement to update and improve each country’s actions towards achieving the goals of the Agreement. In particular, issues such as adaptation measures, climate finance and finalising the Paris Rulebook (the rules making the Paris Agreement operational) are on the table. 

With climate change measures being one of the EU’s areas of competence, it is quite important for the bloc to go into November’s COP26 meeting with an agreement on stances on the various issues that are to be discussed. The EU has adopted some of the most ambitious climate change reduction goals in the developed world (for example, the 2030 Climate Target Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 55% below 1990 levels) and is a key player in terms of persuading other big emitters to also adopt similar targets.  

The EU finalised its position ahead of the conference with the European Council meeting held 21-22 October reiterating the conclusions of the Environment Council meeting held at the start of October; namely, emphasising the extreme urgency of scaling up measures to combat climate change on a global scale, and highlighting the importance of ensuring that the climate transition is fair and does not have a negative impact on any marginalised groups of people.  

The EU has also made the decision to push for a five-year timeline for realising climate pledges instead of the more lenient ten-year timeframe, with the idea that this will encourage countries with weaker climate pledges to follow through with them satisfactorily. It should be noted that countries such as Poland and Hungary were in favour of the longer timeframe, so it will be interesting to watch events unfold to see if the EU can hold their united front throughout the conference. 

In terms of financing the climate transition, the Council of the European Union released a statement highlighting that private finance is currently underutilised across the board for achieving climate targets, while at the same time encouraging all parties to “enhance transparent reporting on private finance mobilised for climate action.” The statement also highlighted the role of Multilateral Development Banks in contributing to climate finance commitments through mobilising, among others, private climate finance, and stressed the importance of plans “ensuring the effective implementation of [strategies to achieve emissions targets] including with respect to intermediated lending and… by supporting countries to develop and implement ambitious [climate change goals]”. 

Much like every other event in recent times, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way COP26 is going to be run, with a hybrid model planned, and vaccines offered to all delegates. As a result of the high numbers of cases in the UK (around three times higher than the current average across the EU), POLITICO reported that EU officials are only attending essential events in-person, and the number of EU officials attending in-person across the two weeks has been scaled down by 20-30%. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the EU’s ability to persuade more reticent signatories such as China and India to agree to more ambitious targets as well as the tight five-year timescale. 

October 2021