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COP26: Key outcomes and next steps for the UK

1. Outline

COP26 in Glasgow marked a step forward in global efforts to address climate change, including a material increase in ambitions to reduce emissions across the world, finalisation of rules on reporting emissions and international carbon trading, and the launch of a range of new initiatives and sector deals. How far this can be considered a success will depend on follow-up actions over the coming year and beyond.

This briefing takes stock of global progress after COP26 and identifies key actions for the UK in response, both at home and internationally.

2. Key messages

UK actions at home

The Glasgow Climate Pact requested that all countries revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal in the coming year. The UK should focus its efforts on strengthening delivery rather than increasing its headline target, and seek ways to supplement current plans, including by taking more action to tackle its consumption emissions.

  • The UK’s NDC already has one of the most ambitious 2030 targets for reducing emissions in the world. However, the UK does not yet have all the policies in place to deliver this ambition. The Net Zero Strategy provides a strong foundation for delivery and needs to proceed at pace; a change in ambition would risk slowing this process down.
  • In response to the Glasgow call for a ‘phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’ the Treasury should initiate a review of the role of tax policy in delivering Net Zero.
  • The UK should considerably strengthen its policies on adaptation.
  • Technical options for strengthening the UK’s NDC include making the 2030 emissions target legally binding, clarifying that it will be met without offsets and with a limited role for CO2 removal, and including the sector targets set out in the Net Zero Strategy.
The UK’s international role

The UK continues to hold the COP Presidency for the next year until COP27 in Egypt. It has a vital role in driving progress in this period and beyond across mitigation, adaptation and finance. This in turn will support the UK’s climate goals at home.

  • The UK should maintain a strong COP team with high-level leadership through at least the duration of the Presidency, recognising that decisions over the coming year are critical to the chances of limiting global temperature increase close to 1.5°C, and that the COP team has built significant diplomatic capital and expertise.
  • The UK should support strengthened global climate action through all available channels: prioritising climate action in the G20 and G7; encouraging stronger NDCs across the world; supporting strengthening of new sectoral initiatives such as on deforestation, coal and methane; supporting strengthened action from businesses and the financial sector; ensuring climate finance commitments are transparently delivered and that a constructive dialogue proceeds on loss and damage.