What the COP?

By Amelia Cairns

At Wright Communications, we’re committed to keeping our clients up to date about climate change policy, emissions reduction and long-term sustainability. So let’s take a moment to demystify the upcoming climate change conference in Glasgow.

What’s all the talk about COP26, and why is it important?

In November, the United Nations is hosting its annual climate change conference – COP26. For 26 years the UN has been bringing together nearly every country on earth for global climate summits. The COP (conference of the parties) is not new.

But this year’s summit and the decisions it will bring is regarded by many scientists, politicians and observers as crucial to the future of our planet, and as a result it’s receiving extensive global attention.

Why is this COP so important?

The impacts of climate change are now unavoidable and undeniable. Remember Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (back in 2006)? He was warning us then about the impacts of climate change, and the ‘ozone hole’ and plastic use have been the remit of environmentalists long before that.

This COP is important because it’s five years since COP21. In itself – not that exciting. What is important is that at COP21 in Paris, the ‘Paris Agreement’ was born – where every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, with substantial emissions reduction targets for 2030, ultimately leading to net zero emissions by 2050. They committed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan about how they’re going to achieve this. Enter COP26 – where the leaders will report back on their progress and share their plans about how they’re cutting carbon emissions into the future.

What are the world’s biggest emitters up to?

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, the United States and China (the biggest emitters of planet warming gases) made significant pledges. China said they would stop building coal-fired power plants abroad. The US pledged to seek Congressional support to increase climate aid for developing nations to $11.4 billion annually, by 2024. However, both these pledges are limited – China didn’t commit to eliminating coal-fired plants at home. And seeking Congressional support for more funding doesn’t mean it will eventuate.

How’s New Zealand shaping up?

New Zealand has made various commitments to reduce emissions, including a cap on emissions, a fund to replace businesses’ coal boilers and plans to boost renewable electricity to 100 per cent by 2030. Many are familiar with the subsidy for new electric vehicles and banning single-use plastic bags.  However, Aotearoa’s target to reduce emissions is not on track to keep warming at 1.5 degrees. So that means we’ll see a stronger target released soon that’s likely to mean more compliance for businesses.

The Government is currently consulting on its Emissions Reduction Plan, with a range of policy ideas to decrease the country’s emissions.

What should we, as Kiwis, do?

We all need to stay informed about what’s going on with climate policy. Discussions that have been taking place for decades are now being formed into policy decisions that impact the future. If you have a business or lifestyle that involves carbon emissions, become familiar with the Emissions Reduction Plan and make a submission (open until 24 November), as it could have an impact on how you do business.

As consumers, one of the best things we can can do is vote with our wallet for the products we want to see more of, and the companies we want to support.

If you own a business, no matter how big or small, now is the time to consider measuring and tracking your carbon footprint.  Or if you don't have a business, how about measuring your home's carbon footprint?

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