British Chambers of Commerce is hosting a significant in-person presence at COP26 in the City of Glasgow Colleges. Our programme of events features roundtables in which we will hear from industry experts across the business and net zero agenda, as well as thought leadership sessions, practical sessions for businesses and networking opportunities.

Our full programme of events can be found here. We hope you can join us in Glasgow.

What is COP26 and what does it hope to achieve?

COP26 is the annual UN climate change conference. The summit is attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994, a pledge to prevent ‘dangerous human interference’ with the environment. This year’s conference is hosted by the UK, with the UK and Italy acting as joint presidents.

With around 30,000 attendees, COP26 is the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted and the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement. Its centrepiece is the Conference of Parties, where global governments come together to negotiate climate commitments. COP26 is critical because it’s the moment at which countries must set out more ambitious goals for climate action five years on from the Paris Agreement.

What will happen?

Global climate commitments made since 2015 will be reviewed and new ones made. Several areas where international consensus has not been reached will also be re-negotiated, including:

  • A carbon markets mechanism to agree rules for trading carbon credits
  • A target of $100bn to support poorer countries tackle climate change
  • The integration of nature-based solutions into the Paris Agreement
  • Commitments to ending international financing for coal

During COP, negotiations will take place in a designated ‘blue zone’, reserved for official delegations. A ‘green zone’ will host more accessible public activities including exhibitions and national pavilions. There will also be fringe events throughout, accessible to business and civil society. The BCC has its own programme of events, taking place between 1 – 4 November.

Why is COP26 so important?

This year’s COP marks five years since the landmark Paris Agreement, the first legally binding treaty on climate commitments. It comes in a year marked by global natural disasters, from wildfires to severe flooding. The International Energy Association also released findings that we are off course in our efforts to meet net zero by 2050.

COP26 will see the first review of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), national emissions reductions targets, since they were established by the Paris Agreement. It will be a major moment in understanding the effect of NDCs, a yardstick for global progress.

Given its role as host, much attention has focussed on the UK and the ambitions of British businesses. Paris led to a significant shift towards net zero ambition across sectors and a change in the behaviour of investors, policymakers and regulators. This year’s COP will likely have similar implications, presenting opportunities and challenges for business in the years ahead.

What is the focus?

The UK has announced five themes:

  1. Adaptation and resilience for societies against climate change
  2. Nature: nature-based solutions to protect ecosystems
  3. Energy transition: ending reliance on fossil fuels
  4. Decarbonised transport: transitioning to electric vehicles
  5. Finance: increasing investment in sustainable infrastructure and greening finance

How will it affect my business?

The Paris Agreement had an impact on the emissions reductions required of businesses in the eyes of regulators, consumers, employees and investors. It led to the UK’s historic commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 68% by 2030.

The Sixth Carbon Budget then set out a roadmap for emissions reductions across sectors, and the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’ set out policies across transport, buildings, finance, energy and heat. Climate-related financial disclosure will also be mandatory for all businesses by 2025.

In the wake of this year’s conference, we are likely to see more commitments that impact the operating landscape of businesses both in the UK and globally, with regulations and capital increasingly focussed on escalating the transition to net zero.

You shouldn’t wait for the landscape to change around you. Instead, we urge businesses to act now, setting out how you can get your net zero journey underway. BCC will continue to help businesses understand what policies are being developed, but all businesses will need to put in place a robust net zero plan as soon as possible.

Useful Resources for businesses:

Business Ambition for 1.5

SME Climate Hub

Race to Zero partner organisations