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What is COP26 and why is it important for construction?

COP26 is a short name for a huge event: the UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow, UK, in November 2021.

Here are 5 things you need to know about COP26 and what it means for construction.

1

COP stands for Conference of Parties

The Conference of Parties is the name given to the decision-making body representing the 197 countries and territories that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. They have been gathering annually since 1995 in a global meeting that also brings together businesses, NGOs and others to to agree on actions to tackle climate change.

This year’s COP will be the 26th since the first one was held in Berlin in 1995. That’s why it is known as COP26.

2

The Paris Agreement was signed at COP21 in 2015

Even if you have not heard of COP, you have most likely heard of the landmark Paris Agreement – or Paris Accord – which was signed at COP21, held in Paris, in 2015. It brought together nearly all nations for the first time in one legally binding commitment to limit global warming to ‘well below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C’.

There are three core elements to the agreement:

  • Commitments from all major emitting countries to cut their emissions and for all countries to set nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – climate action plans and policies to ensure they meet their pledges.
  • Financial support worth $100bn per year to countries considered most vulnerable to the effects of climate change to support climate mitigation
  • A five-year review cycle for monitoring, reporting, and extending national and collective climate goals – which made 2020 as a key delivery year for the agreement.
3

COP26 is crunch time for the Paris Agreement – and the planet.

COP26 is an opportunity for the world to come together to review progress  and agree on measures to achieve targets set in Paris.

The outlook is daunting. In May 2021, Climate Action Tracker announced that, even if all Paris Agreement pledges are delivered, we are on track for global warming of 2.4 degrees by the end of the century – far beyond the 1.5 degree target.

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report, published in August 2021, made it clear that without ‘immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions’ limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be out of reach.

A rise of 1.5 may not seem like a big deal when looking at your thermostat but this limit represents a global average temperature rise. Within that 1.5 degree rise, many parts of the world will experience much higher temperatures, and heatwaves, flooding and other extreme weather events will increase.

Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that any warming beyond 1.5 degrees risks triggering catastrophic changes in natural systems which will put millions more at risk of potentially life-threatening heatwaves and poverty.

4

The built environment is in the spotlight

The built environment contributes around 39% of global greenhouse emissions, making it one of the most important topics on the COP26 agenda.

Progress to decarbonize construction has been slow, which can be seen as a lack of both carrots, in the form of adequate tools and resources; and sticks, robust embodied carbon requirements, whether set by governments or clients.

Our recent research highlighted a need for more high-quality materials data, particularly manufacturer EPDs, as well as effective automation and integration tools to seamlessly ‘plug’ carbon assessments into existing workflows. While governments, developers and investors need more guidance on how and why to set embodied carbon limits.

Change is coming. Governments, including France, the UK, Sweden, and Italy, have started to set carbon requirements for new buildings, which are expected to include carbon limits within a few years. While investors and developers are starting to better understand their role in transforming the sector by including carbon requirements in their projects.

Ahead of COP26, the Royal Institute of British Architects, hosts of the Built Environment Summit, who have released a pre-COP26 report calling for stronger carbon quotas to be set by governments and local authorities, as well as improved data sharing and collaboration across the industry.

This message is echoed by the BuildingToCOP26 Coalition, a group of green building organisations, who will host COP26’s Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day. The Coalition is also encouraging all countries to include built environment actions in their national climate plans.

5

We can and must do more

At One Click LCA we want to help all parts of the construction sector to see where and how they can accelerate decarbonisation.

That’s why, for COP26, we have worked with industry leaders to offer free tools and resources to help each part of the sector to do more.

You can see them all in the COP26 resource center. www.oneclicklca.com/cop26/

COP26 takes place in Glasgow, UK, in November 2021. Find out more at the official COP26 website.

COP26 Resource Hub


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