25 October 2021

Spotlight on COP26: The significance of innovation in tackling climate change

The United Nations’ 26th Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP26) will run from 31 October – 12 November 2021 in Glasgow. The Conference brings together politicians, activists, citizens and business representatives from over 190 countries to discuss tackling climate change through net zero carbon emissions targets review, clean energy initiatives to protect habitats, and raising $100 billion per year.

This year’s conference is particularly significant, given it is the first one since the pandemic and since the UK left the EU; and, most importantly, the first one of these conferences to review the net zero promise under the Paris Agreement. In Paris in 2015, all members of the COP21 have signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. All signatories agreed to come back with updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) every five years, meaning this year’s 12-day summit will provide important updates on individual countries’ progress.

What is COP26?

Aside from reviewing the Paris Agreement’s progress, COP26’s agenda anticipates discussions revolving the following four goals:

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

All representatives are asked to come forward with their 2030 emission reduction targets that put them on track to reaching net zero by 2050. All eyes will be on developed countries and the largest emitters, as their NDCs are likely to have the biggest impact on the success of the overall goal.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

Those experiencing the direct effects of climate change and global warming are also those that have done the least to cause it. The international community must work together to deliver change involving building resilient infrastructure, warning systems, and restoring biodiversity – all targets that COP26 will aim to produce measurable goals and action plans to address.

3. Mobilise finance

Developed countries must raise at least $100 billion every year in climate finance to support developing countries. The UK is increasing its International Climate Finance commitment to £11.6 billion between 2021 and 2025, and intends to motivate as many other countries as possible to follow suit.

4. Work together to deliver

Working together is the only way to reach all of the above three targets and to move closer to a net zero economy. A focus for the negotiations during COP26 is finalising the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement, called the ‘Paris Rulebook’.

Innovation to drive climate change action

With all member states attempting to decarbonise their economies, COP26 will shape policies and trade-offs that will have a direct effect on future for decades. The UK has already passed laws to end its global warming contribution by 2050 and to stop sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 onwards. The results and outcomes of the summit will directly influence regulations put in place, to which businesses and individuals need to comply to. The conference has the power to shape trends in the upcoming years in terms of technology development, household items production, and consumption patterns. We expect new industries to form as the green economy continues to expand and is increasingly introduced in developing countries.

COP26 also poses a massive opportunity in that it is set to encourage member states to raise $100 billion every year to invest in ‘green projects’ to accomplish all goals by 2050. Capital will flow towards greener initiatives, putting polluting business models at risk, as investors anticipate a much higher return on investment in green companies. In recent years there has been an increase in financial help for innovators who are working on environmentally-friendly solutions, such as the Young Inventors Prize and the Earthshot Prize.

On top of this, the growing awareness of the climate crisis has shifted customer consumption patterns, with consumers willing to pay premium for a more sustainable alternative. It is therefore expected that the green economy will grow exponentially, and entrepreneurs will put the environment at the forefront of their decision making. These opportunities are likely to drive innovation and create new business models going forward.

It is evident that the future is green: there are not only more sustainable and carbon neutral products on the market, but also increasingly more solutions that proactively tackle climate change. Such new inventions and innovative concepts need to be protected and the best way to do so is in obtaining intellectual property rights.

Mathys & Squire works with numerous clean-tech clients on their green technology developments and sustainable solutions. We are proud to represent inventors and businesses who are working to combat climate change, and whose actions support the goals outlined by COP26.

We wait with anticipation to see how the outcome of the upcoming COP26 will shape decades of clean technologies and green solutions.