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The summit to save the world?

How important is COP26? There is an understandable desire to resist the modern urge to classify and categorize all events, to hyperbolically attach “historical” to fairly mundane occasions, to promote the status of moderately impressive GOAT in its own right. We live in an era characterized by the importance of inflationary events.

And yet, you can still argue that COP26 is one of the most important summits in human history. The stakes are so high, the potential outcomes that define the era. From businesses and journalists to participating politicians to the general public, the rally deserves all the attention and attention it deserves.

The first thing to consider is that the Glasgow Summit will be one of the biggest logistics companies of modern times. Among the tens of thousands of delegates there will be dozens of world leaders, who will inevitably require the biggest security operation since the London Olympics. A rally that would be difficult to coordinate at all times was further complicated by the need to manage covid risks and allow access to vaccines for delegates.

These costs have been borne and calls for further postponement have resisted because the meeting matters so much.

Of course, by definition, each climate summit matters more than the last, because with each passing year emissions keep increasing and the task of keeping temperature increases below 1.5 ° C becomes more more difficult. But the way the Paris Agreement ushered in five-year review cycles that would result in calls for countries to improve their decarbonization plans makes COP26 more important than any summit since the 2015 Paris meeting. .

Add in the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Joe Biden’s victory, and the rapid advance of clean tech and net zero strategies since the signing of the Paris Agreement, and you can see how Glasgow could really trigger a sea change in global decarbonization efforts.

And such a radical change is urgently needed. There is no firm deadline for climate action – 1.5C is better than 2C, which is better than 3C, which is better than 4C – but it is still true that without a true global historic peak global emissions over the next few years, it will become almost impossible to keep temperature levels below the targets agreed in Paris. And, as scientists have repeatedly warned, beyond those goals, the risk of global catastrophe lies. There are dragons.

Some would say that COP26 and the entire UN negotiating process is a side show to the main event of global decarbonization. That this is a selfish trailer, locked away from the real world where businesses and investors will collide with serious emissions reduction work while diplomats and politicians speak.

But the Paris Agreement exposed the lie contained in this dismissive analysis. The deal challenged skeptics – President Trump among them – by providing the market signals that then set off the global wave of net zero strategies that now cover two-thirds of the global economy and, according to the latest landmark report from the IEA today, could bring the world warming trajectory up to 2.1C.

If the Glasgow Summit respects the priorities set by the UK government – a finalization of the Paris Agreement settlement; mobilizing $ 100 billion per year in climate finance, including actions on climate resilience; net zero objectives and strategies of each major issuer; and the real world action on coal, money, cars and trees – then the market signals triggered in Paris will become deafening to businesses and investors around the world. You’ll see the results from space – literally.

As the IEA noted today, the fossil fuel sector could become a declining industry by 2025, as demand spikes and clean tech begin to dominate. Glasgow could effectively lock in that progress and help make net zero a reality.

This is the importance of COP26. And once you start unpacking what’s at stake, you quickly come to the question, what is most important? It is the pinnacle of international cooperation, the pinnacle of multilateralism. A real attempt by every country on the planet to maintain the only survival system available to humanity and reverse the existential damage caused to the biosphere.

It might sound like hyperbole, but think about the implications, the scale of the opportunity, and the potential repercussions if all goes wrong, and the summit to save the world is well deserved.

A version of this article originally appeared in the BusinessGreen Overnight Briefing newsletter, which is available to all BusinessGreen subscribers.


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