COP26, or the 26th Conference of Parties, is a meeting of global leaders to address the ongoing issue of climate change, taking place in Glasgow from October 31-November 12, 2021. This annual conference is a result of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty signed in 1992 to set forth the rules on how countries would work together to fight climate change.

The first COP conference, COP1, was held in 1995, but two of the most notable conferences include COP3 and COP21. COP3 created the Kyoto Protocol, a commitment to decrease greenhouse emissions in industrialized countries, and COP21 led to an unanimous passing of the Paris Climate accords, a global commitment to limiting the rise in temperature to less than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Why is COP26 such a big deal?

The conference has been at the forefront of climate action, with this year stated to be another influential meeting. 

Key topics on the agenda relevant to businesses include:

  • Country-specific commitments 

Coming out of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. Current efforts are not enough to prevent that warming. This year, countries are required to update their targets and action plans – their national determined contributions (NDCs). Some countries, like China, Australia, Russia and India, have not submitted updated NDCs while others submitted plans not in line with the Paris goals. This COP, the focus will be on plans for countries to cut emissions faster than they’re already doing.

  • Financing climate mitigation

Developed nations are lagging on their commitment to send $100 billion annually to poorer countries. This COP, expect some concrete commitments and timelines (like that already provided by the UK) and fiery debate on the responsibility of historically high carbon-emitting countries to support countries in their climate transition.

  • Carbon market & offset rules 

No consensus emerged at the last COP on rules for establishing an international carbon market. According to the World Bank, 31 global trading schemes are emerging. Negotiations at this COP will focus on the rules for these markets.  

This year’s COP is a critical moment for heads of state to take action on climate change. With all eyes on Glasgow, expect even more corporate pledges in and around the conference. Stay tuned to see how their goals mold the climate movement going forward.