International allies give go-ahead for UK to host COP26

The UK last night (10 September) formally received the backing of all countries responsible for agreeing on the host of the COP26 climate conference.

International allies give go-ahead for UK to host COP26

Pictured: The Scottish Events campus where the UN's COP26 climate conference will be held

The backing means the event will take place in Glasgow in December 2020, playing host to more than 30,000 delegates from across the globe. Attendees to the UN-led summit each year include the likes of national policy leaders, business representatives and climate scientists.

According to the Foreign Office, the UK’s nomination will likely be cemented at the COP25 summit in Chile this summer.

As part of its bid to host, the UK Government had agreed that the event will be hosted in partnership with Italy, with the main event held in Glasgow and a smaller pre-event gathering held in Italy.

Glasgow was chosen as the preferred UK base for the conference this summer, with Ministers praising Scotland’s decision to set a 2045 net-zero target, and Glasgow’s own ambitions to become carbon-neutral and fully aligned with circular economy principles before this date.

Responding to this week’s update, foreign secretary Dominic Raab dubbed the formal backing of ally nations “a huge vote of confidence” in the UK’s green policy frameworks and green economy.

Claire Perry MP, who was recently appointed as COP26 president after stepping down as Energy Minister, added: “In 2020, world leaders will come together to discuss how to tackle climate change on a global scale – and where better to do so than Glasgow, one of the UK’s most sustainable cities with a great track record for hosting high-profile international events.”

Green economy reaction

High-profile figures from across the UK’s green economy have been quick to welcome Tuesday’s announcements – but many are also calling for Ministers to address the policy gaps currently standing between the UK and net-zero by mid-century ahead of COP26.

The UK is notably already off track to meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which are aligned with the 2008 Climate Change Act’s original target of an 80% emission reduction by 2050, against a 1990 baseline.

“The 2020 UN climate summit will be the most important such gathering since the Paris summit four years ago and an occasion when world leaders will be expected to deliver on the promises they have all made,” the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) director Richard Black said.

“So the government will be taking on a major task and a major responsibility to deliver real progress – and the recently-set target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 will enable ministers to use the UK as an example of what can be done – provided that by the time of the summit it has policies in place that put us on the road to net-zero. “

“This is an important moment for the UK and a vindication of our track record of climate leadership;  it’s a great opportunity to outline what a green, global Britain looks like,” Green Alliance’s policy director Dustin Benton added.

“But we can only credibly get countries together around a deal to stop climate breakdown if we practice what we preach and show action on our net-zero commitments by November 2020. This will mean improving our housing stock, bringing forward electric vehicle targets, restoring our natural environment to absorb more carbon, supporting solar and onshore wind and making industry more efficient.

“These measures would not only frame the UK as a first responder to the global climate emergency but will provide cleaner air, safer homes, lower bills and a better environment for the people of this nation.”

Calls for greater ambition pre-summit are now also being directed at businesses as well as policymakers.

The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson dubbed COP26 “an opportunity for the UK to stand as a climate leader on the world stage, but also for British nations and businesses to take their climate action to the next level.

“We know through our initiatives with businesses and governments from around the world that good progress is being made, but more needs to be done at a much greater pace and scale if we are to halt global heating in its tracks,” Clarkson said. “Only the highest levels of ambition are now acceptable.”

Sarah George

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