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A Primer on COP26 — United Nations Meet to Tackle Climate Challenges

Claire Gotham, Managing Director Power and Utilities
Guido Zanetti, Managing Director Power and Utilities Leader

The United Nations COP26 meeting could spell large changes for companies that have been readily linked to creating an impact on the climate and environment. COP26 is scheduled to take place from October 31 through November 12 and has garnered headlines from global leaders looking to weigh in on climate change around the globe.

What is COP26?

The United Nations established the Conference of the Parties (COPs) to bring together member nations for global climate change summits. This year, COP26, which will be led by the United Kingdom and Italy, includes invitations to more than 190 world leaders as they work to negotiate climate action plans to meet the 1.5°C goal. That goal, which aims to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees centigrade by the end of the century, was set by the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015. Experts feel that many nations’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or long-term emissions goals, established since COP21, are not enough to meet the global target. COP26 provides the latest opportunity for nations to reaffirm their NDCs and refocus efforts to reduce their emissions.

Overall, the goals of COP26 include the following:

  • Secure global net zero by midcentury and keep 1.5°C within reach
  • Adapt and protect communities and natural habitats
  • Mobilize finance
  • Work together to deliver results

Where is COP26, and who is attending?

COP26 is being hosted in Glasgow through a partnership between the United Kingdom and Italy. Although many countries are expected to attend, major contributors of CO2 emissions, including China and India, have not committed to participating. However, COP26 marks the return of the United States and its recommitment to the Paris Agreement.

Importance of the United States rejoining

In January 2021, President Biden announced that the United States had rejoined the Paris Agreement. Following that, the United States announced a new NDC that pledged a 50% – 52% reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. The move by the United States represents a key player rejoining and re-upping its commitment to climate action and is seen as positive momentum for other countries to increase the level of carbon and emission reductions in their NDCs by 2030.

Recap of Pre-COP meeting in Milan

Prior to all COP meetings, a Pre-COP, or preliminary meeting, is held to establish an agenda for the discussion. Pre-COP26, held in Milan with more than 50 ministers who emphasized the urgency to meet the 1.5°C goal, discussed increasing support to developing countries to enable them to act on climate change and called on those nations that have not communicated new NDCs to mitigate climate risks by 2030. By reaffirming the commitment to the 1.5°C goal, leadership plans to enact programs to support developing countries in their pursuit to reduce their contributions to climate change and to work on devising strategies to minimize losses due to natural disasters exacerbated by climate extremes.

Final thoughts and outcomes

Resilience and results will be focal points at COP26. Global leaders hope to reach net zero and carbon neutrality by 2050 through improved NDCs focused on reducing emissions and establishing clean energy programs. To reach that goal, the attendees will have to agree on some key areas: how to increase climate reporting transparency, how to best finance the energy transition in developing parts of the world and, finally, a collaborative road map that is actionable to reach the carbon goal.

Stay tuned for a follow-up blog. We will discuss the major COP26 themes and outcomes and their implications for companies globally and in the United States.

Aaron Ragusa, a Senior Manager in Protiviti’s Business Performance Improvement practice, and Jordan Svoboda, a Manager in Protiviti’s Internal Audit and Financial Advisory practice, contributed to this content.

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