Who and what is the COP26
This year, the COP26 will be hosted in Glasgow, UK. The COP26 is the 26th UN climate change conference (COP being the acronym for Conference of the Parties,“26” referring to the 26th meeting). The event is hosted by a different country every year and brings members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) together.
In 1994, 196 countries and the European Union signed the UNFCCC treaty. They have continued to meet in some of the largest international meetings in the world to battle climate change, negotiate and expedite the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate change. The COP reevaluates the efficacy of measures made by the participating Parties, in addition to their progress in achieving the ultimate goal of the Convention; “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations”.
Why does it matter?
The COP26 is a key event which plays an important role in how the world will navigate climate change. It provides an international forum for a diverse range of countries and officials to negotiate a collaborative approach in stabilising emissions.
What have they achieved in the past
In previous COP summits, parties adopted an array of agreements, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which ran from 1997 to 2012. It sought to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in developed countries and set limits on emissions. In following years, commitments were made to keep temperature increases below 2*c by financing developing countries with $100 billion a year between 2020 and 2025. The most notable and recent achievement is the Paris Agreement made in the COP21, 2015 summit.
What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was instigated in 2015, evolving from a unanimous agreement from all 197 countries, that emissions had to be reduced. The Paris Agreement differs from the Kyoto Protocol since it recognises that climate change is a global issue and requests all countries set emissions targets.
The agreement’s goal is to limit global temperature increases to 2*c, preferably 1.5* c, when compared to pre-industrial levels. It seeks to do this by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, to achieve a climate neutral world by 2050. The agreement also promises to support developing countries with $100 billion dollars a year in climate finance, and includes a commitment to future financing which is to be reviewed every 5 years. COP26 was delayed from 2020 (the first 5 year review) to 2021, so it is especially important in regards to the Paris Agreement.
What are their goals this year?
The published goals of the Glasgow COP26 are as follows:
- Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
Countries are being asked to provide ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets that align with net zero target in 2050
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
Collaboration to support communities affected by climate change, to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences and warning systems and produce climate resilient architecture and agriculture.
- Mobilising finance
To achieve the first two goals, developed countries must deliver on their $100 billion climate finance pledge per year.
- Work together to deliver
Ambitions must be turned to action and countries must align with the Paris rulebook (developed with the Paris Agreement).
How will this affect commercial real estate?
Although there has been no specific mention of residential real estate in the COP26 agenda, the summit may encourage infrastructure changes in developing nations so they may meet emission targets. The real estate sector has one of the highest carbon footprints, contributing to 30% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions and consuming approximately 40% of the world’s energy. As the world shifts to a carbon neutral market, energy efficient, sustainable and climate resilient properties will become the new standard (as seen in Goal 2 of COP26).
Countries around the world are already proposing policies to create a more energy efficient real-estate and building sector. These policies will protect and support our emission targets in the long run, but may need an adjustment period as resource producers (cement and steelworks) align with new standards. A budding movement encourages investors to refurbish properties instead of demolishing, since an estimated 51% of the lifecycle carbon for a residential property is emitted before the building is even lived in.
Already, the real estate sector is facing changing regulations for property development with climate resilience and energy efficiency. National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is an energy rating system that is required for all new buildings over 2000 square metres and buildings that are up for sale or lease. It is not generally applied in a residential property context, but with emission targets shifting, the COP26 may instigate changes to the residential property sectors.