UN conference on climate action: COP26 in Glasgow

The consequences of climate change are being felt right now here in Canada and around the planet. The science is clear that existing efforts are not enough to avoid catastrophic effects and that more needs to be done to address climate change, and on a faster timeline. The recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report found climate change will impact all regions of the globe. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health. Climate change is also intensifying the water cycle, resulting in more intense rainfall and flooding in some regions with more intense droughts in other regions. Extreme weather and an ongoing global pandemic underline why 2021 is a crucial year for climate action and ensuring international collaboration in the fight against climate change.

Since the release of Canada’s strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy in December 2020, the Government of Canada has moved swiftly to implement key aspects of the plan in order to create jobs, grow the economy and protect the planet. Building on these efforts, Canada will participate in the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and support successful and ambitious outcomes that are in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5ºC and tackle the climate emergency. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual meeting of the 197 parties that are part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

COP26 will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12, 2021, under the U.K. presidency in partnership with Italy. The summit will be a significant milestone, as signatories to the Paris Agreement gather to increase climate action, including through more ambitious emissions reduction targets and plans to accelerate the global shift to clean energy, clean technology and clean growth.

The Government of Canada has been taking action, announcing a more ambitious emission reductions target and a doubling of its climate finance commitment to help developing countries fight climate change and biodiversity loss. Canada has also been taking important steps to address climate change at home; these climate actions are highlighted in the report entitled “Canada’s Climate Actions for a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy”.

The Paris Agreement

On December 12, 2015, Canada and 194 other countries reached the Paris Agreement, an ambitious and balanced agreement to fight climate change. It is driving international coordination to strengthen the effort to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to developing national plans to reduce their emissions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. Every five years, countries update their NDC targets to represent their highest possible ambition and each NDC must be more ambitious than the one before. COP26 will mark the first 5 year period since the Paris Agreement was signed, and all countries are encouraged to announce enhanced NDCs for 2030.

The science shows that it is vital that countries do more to address climate change and keep the lower end of the Paris Agreement goal within reach, and on a faster timeline.

COP26 Goals

As host, the United Kingdom is focusing COP26 on four central goals: mitigation and driving down emissions to net-zero emissions by 2050, enhancing climate adaptation and resilience by protecting people and nature, mobilising international climate finance, and increasing global cooperation. These have similarly been important priorities of Canada’s climate action, both locally and globally.

Mitigation

What is mitigation? Mitigation efforts are aimed at tackling the causes of climate change, mainly by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. Mitigation focuses on addressing the causes of climate change while adaptation strategies focus on addressing the effects. Mitigation works hand in had with adaptation strategies, which aim to support communities in preparing for and adjusting to the impacts of climate change.

What is the goal of mitigation efforts? The goal of international mitigation efforts is to prevent and minimize the most catastrophic effects of climate change and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5ºC degrees above pre-industrial levels. Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets (known as Nationally Determined Contributions - NDCs) that align with reaching net-zero by the middle of the century.

What is Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution? Months ahead of COP26, Canada announced its new ambitious target of reducing emissions to 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada’s enhanced Paris target will help Canada achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.  The Government of Canada has also created legislation (The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act) that will formalize Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and will legally bind the Government to a process toward that objective. The net-zero legislation will require the Government of Canada to set emissions reduction targets for milestones at five-year intervals for the years 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045. It will also require the Government to report to Parliament with plans to reach these targets, short-term progress on implementation and effectiveness, and a final assessment at each target date.

How will Canada reach net-zero?

Adaptation

What is adaptation? Adapting to the negative impacts of climate change means  taking steps to protect communities and natural habitats from the impacts of climate change (e.g., extreme storms, rising sea levels, more frequent extreme heat events). Adaptation includes actions such as planting living shorelines or adjusting infrastructure design to help combat rising sea levels. Adaptation to climate change is a key focus at COP26. As climate impacts are increasing in frequency and severity, all countries need to accelerate investment and action.

How is Canada supporting adaptation efforts? In early 2021, Canada joined the international Adaptation Action Coalition. The coalition’s goal is to accelerate global action on adaptation to achieve a climate resilient world by 2030 through sector-specific and action-oriented work. The coalition will have a special initial focus on health, infrastructure and water.

In July 2021, Canada submitted its first Adaptation Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), along with its enhanced emissions reductions target. Canada’s submission highlighted important past and ongoing actions involving all orders of government in Canada, Indigenous Peoples and organizations, the private sector and civil society, including youth, to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Canada is developing its first National Adaptation Strategy. The best available science, and other knowledge sources, will guide and inform the strategy. The strategy will be an important part of Canada’s plan to make communities cleaner, safer and more resilient for future generations.

International Climate Finance

What is International Climate Finance? International climate finance assists developing countries build, prevent and cope with the consequences of climate change, as well as develop greener economies. To deliver on the goals of mitigation and adaptation, developed countries made a commitment to mobilise $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries per year by 2020 and through to 2025.

What is Canada’s Role in International Climate Finance? At the most recent G7 Leaders’ Summit, Canada increased its financial commitment to provide $5.3 billion CAD over five years to developing countries to support their climate action, which represents a doubling of its commitment compared with the previous five-year period.

Canada remains committed to reaching the international goal of jointly mobilizing US $100 billion a year from a wide variety of sources.

Recognizing that climate change is a global challenge that requires global solutions, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change has accepted the invitation by UK COP26 President to co-lead a process with Germany to further build trust that developed countries stand by their commitments and deliver on the USD 100 billion climate finance goal through 2025.

Collaboration

We recognize that climate change and biodiversity loss have no borders and no single country can combat climate change alone. Meaningful action requires countries working together. At COP26, countries are focused on:

  • finalising the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
  • accelerating action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

Climate change is global and climate action requires a global response. Canada is a leader in international climate action and COP provides a forum for the Government to continue demonstrating progress on many initiatives, including phasing out coal, driving zero plastic waste, protecting more nature and advancing innovative finance for coastal resilience. In the lead-up to COP26, Canada will be working with key partners to help shape international climate discussions towards achieving ambitious COP26 outcomes.

Canada has made international collaboration a central component of its climate action plan and participated in, launched, and supported collaboration efforts in many areas of climate action.

  • Joining the Adaptation Action Coalition in 2021 and leading the Nature-based Solutions action track.
  • Becoming the first Government to serve as a full member of the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) in 2019.
  • In 2019, Canada committed to conserving 25 percent of Canada’s land and marine areas by 2025, and working towards 30 percent by 2030. Canada continues to advocates for other countries to also commit to conserving 30% of land and oceans by 2030.
  • Hosting the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy in 2018, to demonstrate international leadership on climate action and plastic pollution.
  • Co-founding and co-leading with the UK the Powering Past Coal Alliance in 2017. The Alliance drives the international push to phase out unabated coal power.
  • Hosting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Montreal in 2017.
  • Co-chairing Ministerials on Climate Action (MOCA), which are annual ministerial meetings with the European Union and China since 2017.
  • Participating in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 21) in Paris in 2015.
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