COP26: The United Nations Climate Change Conference

In the United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP26 (Conference of the Parties) leaders from all countries in the world participate to agree on how to step up global action to solve the climate crisis. COP26 is the 26th “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations climate convention (UNFCCC) that will be held from October 31st to November 12th in Glasgow, United Kingdom in partnership with Italy. At the meeting, parties will review progress on their commitments under the Paris Agreement’s goal (COP21) of keeping global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

At the COP26 meeting, countries are expected to live up to their Paris Agreement commitments by:

  • committing to more ambitious targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
  • discussing measures to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change
  • increasing funding for climate action, in particular for developing countries


"For an integrated ESG approach, a company must first and foremost have a robust 'G' to underpin and support long-term and impactful 'E' and 'S' activities"

Christos Megalou
CEO, Piraeus Bank

The Paris Agreement requests each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). Together, these climate actions determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. NDCs are submitted every five years to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) secretariat. In order to enhance the ambition over time, the Paris Agreement provide that successive NDCs will represent a progression compared to the previous NDC and reflect its highest possible ambition.


Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere. Removing greenhouse gases can be via nature, as trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or through new technology or changing industrial processes. The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero, requiring states to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.


The SBTi, is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Science-based targets show companies how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change - leading them on a clear path towards decarbonization.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi):

  • Defines and promotes best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science
  • Provides technical assistance and expert resources to companies who set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science
  • Brings together a team of experts to provide companies with independent assessment and validation of targets
  • • The SBTi is the lead partner of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign - an urgent call to action from a global coalition of UN agencies, business and industry leaders, mobilizing companies to set net-zero science-based targets in line with a 1.5°C future.


1. World leaders meeting at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow issued on Tuesday November 2nd a multibillion-dollar pledge to end deforestation by 2030; but that date is too distant for campaigners who want action sooner to save the planet’s lungs.

100 untries Pledge to End Deforestation at COP26 Backed by $19 Billion - Bloomberg

2. The ECB published its pledge to contribute, within its field of responsibility, to decisive action by policymakers to implement the Paris Agreement and mitigate the consequences of climate change.

In line with its recent decisions, the ECB pledges to contribute, within its mandate, to goals of the Paris Agreement and to the efforts of the NGFS with the following activities:
  • Integrating climate-related risks into financial stability monitoring and prudential supervision of banks
  • Integrating sustainability factors into own portfolio management
  • Exploring the effects of climate-related risks on the Eurosystem monetary policy framework within its mandate
  • Bridging data gaps on climate-related data
  • Working towards higher awareness and intellectual capacity, also through technical assistance and knowledge sharing


3. In the context of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), the Bank of Greece contributes within its field of responsibility to the Objective in Article 2.1(c) of the Paris Agreement, making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. This pledge supports the Glasgow Declaration of the Network for Greening the Financial System and the European Central Bank pledge on climate change action.

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4. Countries must put a price on the carbon dioxide emissions causing climate change, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the United Nations COP26 summit on Monday (1 November). 


5. Nations and businesses commit to create sustainable agriculture and land use. 45 governments pledge urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming and 95 high profile companies from a range of sectors commit to being ‘Nature Positive’, agreeing to work towards halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030.


6. Countries will be asked to strengthen their national climate blueprints by the end of next year to bring them in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement (average temperature rise much less than 2 degrees Celsius), according to an early draft document emerging from COP26 negotiations. It also calls on the United Nations to report every year on what the overall impact of countries’ climate plans is on global warming. At the moment, they put the planet on course for 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming.


7. China and the U.S. vowed to work together to slow global warming, issuing a surprise joint statement that injects new momentum into the last days of global climate negotiations. The two sides agreed to boost their efforts to cut emissions, including by tackling methane and illegal deforestation. They will establish a working group to increase action in the 2020s which will meet in the first half of next year.

Surprise U.S.-China Climate Deal Breaks Through Superpower Standoff - Bloomberg

8. The head of the United Nation says a group he’s convening to police net-zero commitments will submit recommendations to him over the course of next year. “We need to hold each other accountable -- governments, non-state actors and civil society,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres Says Policing of Net-Zero Claims to Take Shape in 2022 - Bloomberg

9. Negotiators at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow are closing in on an agreement, though the final stretch is — as always — set to be the hardest. New drafts published on Saturday morning show what battles remain. Environmental groups said the proposed framework for a global carbon market is markedly better than previous versions, though there are still many loopholes. If the negotiations end with weak rules, there’s a risk that it will allow countries and companies to greenwash and give them a license to pollute while claiming to offset those emissions.


1. China-U.S. Deal
The biggest surprise in Glasgow was an agreement by the two biggest emitters to work together. No big concrete action, but good news the pair are at least talking on climate amid the broader diplomatic standoff.

2. Carbon-Trading Rules
Hard-won and long-awaited. The rules on international carbon trading bring clarity to companies and standardization that should help reduce emissions, though some activists are worried they aren’t quite tight enough.

3. Methane Pledge
More than 100 countries agreed to slash methane; and there's a reference to methane for the first time in the pact. It’s not binding, but again, a powerful signal that it’s time to tackle emissions that are much more potent than CO2.

4. Crank Up the Plans
Countries have to come back next year with better climate plans. But there’s a get-out clause.

5. Scrutiny
New rules were agreed that will allow for greater scrutiny on emissions reporting. At last, climate targets should be comparable, allowing for everyone to assess what everyone else is doing.

6. Cash for Damage
For the first time, there’s a recognition that countries struck by catastrophic climate events will get help. There’s an agreement to properly set up a mechanism — though the finer details and exact cash still need to be hashed out. That’s something for COP27, in Egypt next year.

7. Deforestation
Many of the side-deals agreed at COP disappointed, but a pact on deforestation could make a difference. Unlike some of the other deals, on this one the main players signed up.

8. Banks
Former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney cajoled banks, investors and insurers representing $130 trillion in assets to decarbonize their businesses by mid-century. Finance is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change but the list doesn’t include the world’s three biggest banks, all of which are Chinese and major providers of coal finance.

9. The Magic Number
All this leaves us on course for warming of 1.8 degrees Celsius (the target is 1.5o C), if all the pledges come to pass, according to the IEA, and it’s a big if. That’s much better than where we were on the way into COP, but still way above what’s safe.