What is COP26?

The 26th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was originally due to be held last year but was postponed due to Covid. It will now take place during November 2021, organised by the UK government in partnership with that of Italy.

The 12-day event, which will be attended by leaders from virtually every country on the planet, is widely regarded as ‘the last best chance to get runaway climate change under control’, provided it can build on the Paris Agreement. The treaty, hammered out at the 21st COP in 2015 and ratified the following year, seeks to limit the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and preferably no more than 1.5°C. Time is running out for concerted action, with average temperatures having risen by 1°C over the past half-century, and the rate of warming appearing to accelerate in recent years. Drastic greenhouse gas emissions reductions are urgently required, with a global target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The Paris Agreement obliged each of the 191 signatory Parties to provide the UNFCCC with voluntary Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to greenhouse gas reduction which, taken together, should meet the global ambition. Analysis of the NDCs initially submitted showed them to be collectively inadequate, with the prospect of emissions actually rising, rather than falling, over the next decade. Nearly two-thirds of the Parties have since responded by providing updated Contributions, but even these appear to fall short of what UNFCCC Secretariat believes will be necessary between now and 2030.

Arguably the single most important objective for COP26 is to secure additional commitments consistent with a credible trajectory towards Net Zero global emissions by 2050.

The Conference has several other overarching objectives, including:

- ensuring that the accounting rules for international cooperation on climate mitigation avoid double-counting of greenhouse reductions;
- ensuring that NDCs are regularly updated, particularly if greater ambition is deemed necessary;

- improving the verification of annual emissions reductions reported by each Party; and

- encouraging developed countries abide by their previous promises to provide circa $100 billion per annum for climate action in developing countries over the coming decade.

Ibec, as Ireland’s leading business representative organisation, considers climate change to be the greatest threat facing this generation of mankind. We continue to work with our members, across all sectors of the economy, to promote more sustainable means of production, consumption, land use and transport, consistent with the Irish Government’s ambition for Net Zero. Climate action is a key element not only of our policy work, but also of our ongoing campaign for improved quality of life for people who live and work in Ireland.


Our members, many of whom also belong to European umbrella trade associations, have long recognised the benefit of cooperating on climate action with like-minded business federations across the EU and beyond. This is why Ibec’s Head of Infrastructure, Energy and Environment, Dr Neil Walker, has attended previous UN conferences as part of a European business observer delegation. www.businesseurope.eu/policies/energy-and-environment/climate-change

To find out more, download our Infrastructure Team Brochure HERE 

Ibec hopes that other Parties will raise their ambition in line with the commitments made by the EU. This includes a commitment to climate-neutrality by mid-century, underpinned by verifiable interim targets and credible policy steps to reach those commitments. A more likely outcome is that the gap between EU and other Parties will be reduced but not fully closed. In that event, we will urge the European Commission to maintain appropriate measures to reduce the risk of carbon leakage and investment leakage from Europe to countries or regions with lower climate ambition.

Ibec also hopes to see the completion of workable rules for international cooperation, as envisaged under Article 6 of the 2016 Paris Agreement. If implemented well, such mechanisms can achieve more cost-effective action and more equitable outcomes, compared with purely domestic approaches. In this regard, Ibec notes the recent opinion of BusinessEurope that applying high discount rate on future greenhouse gas emission savings could reduce the attractiveness of this policy tool for developing countries, as well as being a substantial obstacle to reaching an agreement on Article 6 in Glasgow.

There will be short National Statements by all of the Parties at the outset. Negotiations between the Parties’ technical experts will then commence in multiple closed sessions over the following days. In parallel, there will be numerous events by country delegations, industry associations and individual businesses, including several each day hosted by the UK COP26 Presidency covering diverse themes such as:


-  climate finance

-  clean energy

-  youth and public empowerment

-  nature and sustainable land use

-  climate adaption, loss and damage

-  climate change impacting on gender equality

-  the role of science and innovation

-  zero emission transport

-  cities, regions, and the built environment

Neil’s blog will be commenting on a selection of these events, as well as giving regular updates on the reported (or rumoured) progress of the negotiations themselves. He also hopes to publish audio podcasts with a variety of actors at the conference, including policymakers and NGOs. 

Further resources

Below you will find some resources relevant to the Conference including the Low Carbon Roadmap report "Building a low carbon economy".  This report was was prepared in 2019 with the assistance of UCC MaREI and others, through a series of workshops in the context of the previous Government’s climate action plan.  This plan will be superseded by a much more ambitious one this autumn.

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