COP26 presidency pushes hard for ambitious net zero GHG emissions by mid-century

The UK, as the presidency of the coming pivotal UN Climate Conference this year or COP26, has vowed to “ask for” the deepest cut of Greenhouse Gas emissions as aiming to help limit the world’s temperature rise at a 1.5 degree Celsius threshold by the end of this century_ the net zero emissions from the conference parties

British Ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Mr. Mark Gooding, revealed the objectives of the conference set by the UK, which hosts the event with Italy and acts as the conference’s presidency, during the press conference held in Bangkok yesterday. COP26 will take place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

The ambassador said the conference this year is important for the fact that it’s the first time for the parties to come to review their reduction targets on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions under the Paris Agreement, which is set for every five years. The countries leaders will come to update their national plans and targets under the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs as well as their long-term strategies to tackle climate change.

Currently, if looking at the commitments made by the countries so far, the global temperature is rising towards 4C, twice as high as the modest limit of 2C, he said.

“It’s the critical time in history. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has recently released the report that has found evidence that human behaviours have been causing climate change and the global temperature at 1.1C has already caused significant impacts and catastrophic incidents worldwide,” said H.E.Gooding. “The IPCC’s very clear that the world needs to limit the temperature rise below 2C, and ideally at 1.5C. To do that, we need to do a significant reduction, which is the net zero (emissions of GHG) by 2050.”

As such, the net zero emissions of GHGs have become one of the four goals set for this pivotal conference to achieve, and the first and foremost; to keep 1.5C ambition alive, according to H.E.Gooding, whose country declared the net zero ambition in 2019 and was the first among G7 countries to do so.

I H.E.Gooding briefs the press about the significance of this conference and its prime goals in Bangkok. Credit: British Embassy Bangkok

Aside from raising more ambitious reduction targets on GHG emissions, the UK will also push for more and new action for adaptation, more climate financing, and more cooperation among stakeholders in tackling climate change, H.E. Gooding pointed.

H.E. Gooding did not pinpoint whether the countries would achieve all goals set for this conference, especially the net zero emissions but said in recent years, major economic countries, G20 included, have stepped out to declare this goal, compared to early 2010s, when only a few did so.

The net zero emissions, by all means, are the countries’ choice, he said, while acknowledging that economic impacts are what the countries may want to take into consideration. However, he pointed that the net zero emissions would rather be the big green industrial revolution and the economic opportunity, citing the UK’s strategy that will move the country to a green transition. (Read: The UK’s Net Zero Strategy)

“The 1.5C ambition is achievable if we take action quickly…,” said H.E. Gooding.

A pre-COP meeting was arranged in Milan, Italy early this month to address some sticking points including politics in the coming negotiations. Credit: PreCop26


COP26 is the 26th conference of the parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change, or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the universal convention with as many as 191 parties to date.

Under the convention, which was given birth in 1992, an annual conference is held (since 1995) for the parties to come and discuss ways to address the climate change related problems. Previously, a more stringent mechanism called Kyoto Protocol was introduced to help cut GHG emissions, but it has been left expired without any continuity, partly due to its tight commitment that some countries criticize as being unfair. Climate justice and inequity is always a thorny issue for the parties to deal with as developed and developing countries take turn blaming one another for causing climate change. (Read: Analysis: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?)

In 2015, they reached a new deal, called Paris Agreement, which is now an umbrella policy for mitigation measures as well as adaptation and financing in regard to climate change problems.

Under the agreement, countries are asked to make their pledges to help cut GHGs emissions, the approach criticized by some observers as being too vague for its voluntary basis. But it’s the sole and the most acceptable among the parties still. The countries’ pledges will be addressed under the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDC, which is set for review every five years.

This year will be the first and also the make-or-break moment following the IPCC’s AR6 Part I report. (Read: 1.5C of global warming projected over next 20 years: IPCC)

According to the UNFCCC, which has updated the latest NDCs targets submitted to the organization, the countries’ collective efforts would not help cut Greenhouse Gases at 45% compared to the 2010 level as expected in the next decade, but on a contrary, increase the average emissions globally by around 16%.

“To be consistent with global emission pathways with no or limited overshoot of the 1.5C goal, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions need to decline by about 45 per cent from the 2010 level by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. For limiting global warming to below 2C, CO2 emissions need to decrease by about 25 per cent from the 2010 level by 2030 and reach net zero around 2070,” the UNFCCC secretariate noted in its synthesis report on the NDCs in mid-September, confirming the need for the deep cuts of GHG emissions.

The UK will also “ask” countries to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions along with the net zero ones to try to get the countries aligned with these goals. “To deliver on these stretching goals, the countries will need to accelerate the phase-out of coal, encourage investment in renewables, curtail deforestation and speed up the switch to electric vehicles,” the UK also declared in its press release.

It has not yet revealed how it will actually push the countries to do all these.

Thailand, meanwhile, has submitted its NDC to the UNFCCC secretariat with a 20% GHG emissions reduction target set. It said five per cent more would be achieved if it gets support from the international community. The Natural Resources and Environment Minister will hold a press conference next week to update the country’s stance at the conference.