David hone

COP26: five key points about the climate summit

As more than 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, Shell’s Chief Climate Adviser, David Hone, shares his thoughts about what the conference can deliver.

By Judith Durkin on Oct 13, 2021

1. It is the first big test of the climate pledges made in 2015 under the Paris Agreement

“While decades of negotiation led to the creation of what is arguably the most significant action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions ever devised, the Paris Agreement, it is only a framework – countries still need to deliver on the promises they have signed up to.

Expectations for COP26 are high. The event marks six years since the agreement was adopted and so we’ll need to see if countries’ updated plans to reduce emissions, known as their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are ambitious enough. World leaders also need to negotiate parts of the Agreement that have yet to be signed off – Article 6, for example, which describes the rules that will govern co-operation between governments, including carbon trading.

Trade has historically been the route to economic efficiency. One village used to grow wheat, the other made widgets – so they met, and they traded, and both villages developed. Carbon trading is no different. It creates economic incentives for cutting carbon emissions by making them a tradeable commodity.

Unless actions are agreed to implement Article 6, I find it difficult to see how the world will meet its net-zero goals. So negotiations on this will be a vital component of COP26.”

2. Each COP has a different agenda

“COP17 in Durban, South Africa, established the concept that both developed and developing countries would need to create emissions-reduction plans in order to tackle climate change. COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, then saw this idea evolve with the birth of the NDC approach. And COP21 in Paris, France, centered on creating a new global agreement.

For COP26 in Glasgow, ‘Keep 1.5 alive’ has become something of a rallying cry. To have a chance of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C, society must halve global carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The main focus of the UK government this November is going to be ensuring that can still happen. And that means greater ambition from all participating nations.”


COP and the Paris Agreement

  • The Conference of Parties, or COP as it’s become known, has taken place every year for almost three decades, bringing together governments of the world to agree on a plan to tackle climate change.
  • The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change that was adopted at COP21 in 2015, in Paris, and entered into force on 4th November 2016. It united 196 countries under a common architecture in a pursuit of tackling global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The goal of the Agreement is to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

3. Companies like Shell have a role to play

“I always despair a little whenever I get told that COP is only an event for world leaders. At the end of the day, it’s not governments who will deliver the energy transition: they’ll create the framework that will allow businesses to deliver.

That’s why companies such as Shell need to understand what’s happening at these events. When I attend a COP, and this is my 18th, it is as a registered observer for the International Emissions Trading Association. My colleagues and I listen and respond to what’s going on. Since COP21, Shell has brought in a new climate target that aims to see the company become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society. And we will continue to work with governments, leaders and other businesses to see the goals of the Paris Agreement become a reality.”

4. Some COPs get the headlines, but the hard work happens every year

“Changing the global energy system is a monumental task, one that requires an entire rewiring of economies and industries. Each COP event is part of achieving this goal, but no single COP is designed to change the world. Take the Paris Agreement for example. When that was adopted in 2015, it was a historic moment, but it was actually the culmination of work done in the decade of COPs that came before it. Every COP has a role to play in addressing climate change and we certainly won’t find all the answers at COP26. There will be more discussions to come.”

5. Expect ups and downs

“While watching COP negotiations unfold over the years I am often reminded of the quote, ‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made’.

Modern diplomacy is a complex and often tortuous process. COP15 in Copenhagen was a bit of a challenge, to put it politely. It tried very hard to deliver a global agreement but was not able to.

COP26 is no different. There will be successes and there will be setbacks. But, in holding these conferences, the UN is bringing consistency and focus to a task that will be with us for decades to come – addressing climate change.”

About David Hone

David Hone’s interest in environmental issues started when, as a teenager growing up in Australia, he wrote an article for his school’s science journal on the impact chlorofluorocarbons were having on the ozone layer at the time. After graduating as a chemical engineer, he joined the energy industry. After working for over a decade in Shell Trading, in 2001, David was appointed Shell’s Chief Climate Change Adviser, a role in which he helps Shell understand the implications of climate change so the company can work to address them. Read more in his blog.

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