Written by Lars Maebe
COP26...What’s in a name?
Does COP26 ring a bell? Probably not…
What about COP21, an event that happened 6 years ago? Still no clue what we are talking about?
You do know the Paris Agreement, right?
Let’s explain, COP21 was the 21st edition of United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted in Paris in 2015. COP actually stands for Conference of the Parties, also known as the Paris Agreement.
If we follow this logic, COP26 is thus the 26th edition of the Climate Conference of the Parties.
Although many topics within sustainability are unknown and often sound quite complex, it is super fun to get involved!
What is the COP all about?
The COP is an annual event where world leaders agree on a collective action plan to address the threats of climate change. This initiative started in Berlin in 1995 but has since then moved location each year. In 2015, Paris had the honor to host the 21st edition of the COP, which became pretty well-known because 196 countries agreed to limit global warming below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. For the first time in history, almost every country in the world entered a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions.
Today, we are 6 years later and a few days away from the start of the 26th and the most crucial edition of the COP. From November 1st until November 12th, the UK and Italy will cohost the COP26 in Glasgow.
Why is COP26 so important ?
First of all, as part of the Paris Agreement, every country agreed to communicate or update their emissions reduction targets (also called NDC, Nationally Determined Contribution) to reflect their highest possible ambition and progression over time. At COP26, all participating countries must present their 2030 emissions reductions to limit global warming below 1,5°C. To reach the stretching target, everyone will have to accelerate the phaseout of coal, encourage investment in renewables, speed up the switch to electric vehicles, etc.
It is thus time to turn ambitions into action by advancing collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society if we want to deliver on climate goals.
The second big agenda point of the COP26 is that all parties need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defenses, put warning systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods, and lives. Therefore, mobilizing finance for developing countries is crucial. Developed countries promised to raise 100 billion dollars a year to support them, and now it is time to fulfill this promise.
Finally, the United States of America has also returned to the negotiating table. With Biden expecting to take the lead to tackle climate change after the withdrawal in 2019 under Donald Trump.
What about Belgium? What are we planning to present?
The goal for Belgium is to achieve a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to what they were in 1990. Important to note is that the federal state and each federated entity must contribute to this, which makes it all a bit more complicated (as usual).
While the federal level has already determined the means to wait for the CO2 emissions target of -55%, the federated entities (Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia) have yet to determine what efforts they will make to achieve this national average.
Belgium’s federal state already came up with a few measures to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
Firstly, the federal government is considering taxation as an instrument to reduce CO2 emissions. The change in the taxation of company cars is an example of this, which is leading to the electrification of this sector.
Energy is the second area where the federal government wants to act as it wants to strengthen the presence of offshore wind energy in the North Sea and increase the use of emission-free fuels, such as biofuels and hydrogen.
Transport and mobility are also fields of action. Mobility is nowadays responsible for 30% of Belgium's CO2 emissions. Therefore, the idea is to promote the so-called "modal shift", in other words, transport by train instead of trucks for example. The aim is to double rail freight transport by 2030.
A last important part of the federal plan concerns public buildings. Energy consumption must be drastically reduced. Public enterprises will also have to become "greener" by, for example, equipping them with zero-emission vehicles, as we are already doing at Brightwolves.
At COP26 in Glasgow, Belgium should hopefully come up with a "national" plan to reduce CO2 emissions, however federated entities are still busy finalizing their concrete actions to meet the targets.
If you are triggered and want to follow the whole event during the coming weeks, visit: https://ukcop26.org/