COP26 gets started as ‘last best hope’ to tackle the climate crisis

1 Nov 2021

Image: © martin33/

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is among the world leaders set to make a national statement at the climate summit this week.

World leaders are meeting in Glasgow from today (1 November) for a major summit that aims to accelerate climate action and limit global temperature rises.

COP26 will bring together around 120 heads of state and national representatives to outline their climate commitments and make new pledges.

Countries are required under 2015’s Paris Agreement to update their emissions-reductions pledges, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs), every five years and these commitments are expected to be a key part of the summit.

It comes after a UN emissions report released last week warned that current NDCs are not enough to meet the target laid out in the Paris Agreement of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“We know that this COP, COP26, is our last best hope to keep 1.5 in reach,” said COP26 president Alok Sharma in his opening speech yesterday (31 October).

“And I know that we have an unprecedented negotiations agenda ahead of us. But I believe this international system can deliver. It must deliver.”

Global negotiations

Ahead of COP26, G20 leaders met in Rome and committed to “meaningful and effective actions” to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But while these leaders, representing nations that together emit nearly 80pc of global emissions, pledged action against dirty coal plants, they failed to set a clear target on zero emissions.

The talks in Rome this weekend were described as “not enough” by UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who said the world is at “one minute to midnight” when it comes to the climate emergency.

“While I welcome the G20’s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled, but at least they are not buried,” added UN secretary general António Guterres.

G20 leaders including US president Joe Biden, French president Emmanuel Macron and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will speak at COP26 in the coming days. But Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin have not travelled to the summit.

‘The lights are flashing red on the climate dashboard’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD, will deliver Ireland’s national statement tomorrow, setting out how the country has been working towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Government is expected to publish its Climate Action Plan 2021 this week, with targets, measures and actions to meet commitments under the country’s new climate action legislative framework. Following proposals from Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council, carbon budgets will be outlined for different sectors.

The COP26 gathering in Glasgow, which was postponed for one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, runs until 12 November.

It comes after the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in August, warned that human activities have changed the climate system in unprecedented ways and that the climate crisis is now widespread, rapid and intensifying.

“The IPCC report in August was a wake-up call for all of us,” Sharma noted in his COP26 opening speech. “It made clear that the lights are flashing red on the climate dashboard.”

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Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic