The climate emergency is one of the main challenges facing our planet. In order to tackle it the chief strategy is the energy transition, which can reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through the spread of renewable sources and electrification. Implementing the energy transition is therefore a question of fundamental importance and various international organizations are working on it, beginning with the United Nations.
A sustainable conference
Taking place from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, the eagerly awaited 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties, or COP26, is the most important global event addressing the climate change crisis.
The Conference organized in collaboration with Italy is being hosted by the United Kingdom for the first time. Glasgow was selected as the venue both due to its accommodation capacity and, above all, because it is the top city at national level (and the fourth worldwide) in the Global Destination Sustainability Index, the international ranking that measures cities’ sustainability levels.
The event venue, the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), is equipped with an auditorium, arena and exhibition spaces. It is the ideal setting to inspire delegates from around the world to introduce the right policies for the environment as it won the Gold Green Tourism Award for sustainable tourism and the entire conference is being organized with sustainability as its foremost priority, in line with International Standard for Sustainable Events (ISO20121) indications.
The president of the Conference is UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma, who served formerly as Secretary of State for International Development. He will be accompanied by a distinguished team of experts and personalities, including David Attenborough, the renowned naturalist and educator who has already contributed significantly to raising public awareness about environmental issues.
From Rio to Paris
COP26 is the latest stage on a journey that began long ago. It all started in 1992 with the signing in Rio de Janeiro of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which entered into force in 1994. With this agreement the international community acknowledged that global warming caused the planet's temperature to rise by around 1 degree above preindustrial levels and decided to take action to limit the concentration of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere. The first Conference of the Parties (COP1) took place in Berlin in 1995 and has been held every year since.
In 1997, participants in COP3 in Kyoto signed the first protocol that imposed binding national targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. In 2015, at COP21 in Paris a new agreement to limit global warming by “well below” 2 degrees over preindustrial levels and possibly limiting it to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century was introduced. Individual countries were not bound by finite targets, but were obliged to draft their own roadmaps to achieve this goal.
The Paris Agreement also called on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to produce a report. The document, which was published in 2018, confirms that the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees can only be achieved with a determined effort to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels, and by achieving net zero emissions (meaning that the carbon dioxide emitted must be compensated by an equal quantity removed from the atmosphere) by 2050.
In order for this endeavor to succeed everyone must get involved, large energy companies in particular. The Enel Group therefore has a primary role to play, both as a renewables supermajor driving the energy transition and as a large-scale operator of the cutting-edge power grids of the future.
Preparatory events for COP26 around the world and in Italy
COP26 is the culmination of a year of climate initiatives that have included the Leaders Summit on Climate (April 22 and 23), the G20 Ministerial Climate Meeting in Naples (July 22 and 23), the 54th session of the IPCC (July 26 July-August 6, part of a wider project to review the scientific evidence for climate change that will conclude in 2022) and Climate Week in New York (September 20-26).
A number of preparatory events ahead of the Glasgow conference are also being organized in Milan, which was the venue for COP9 in 2003. The first is Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition, when around 400 youths from around the world aged 18-29 will gather to develop proposals for the delegates in Glasgow. The goal is to give representation to an acutely environmentally conscious generation that has already made its voice heard, and that will have to deal with the effects of climate change far more than its forebears have had to.
The Pre-COP event will be held in Milan from September 30 - October 2. Every year, this meeting brings together members of governments, UNFCCC representatives and other stakeholders to tackle the main issues that the negotiations will focus on, propose solutions, and share experiences and perspectives. This is where the groundwork for COP26 will be laid.
The four goals
COP26 has four main goals. The first is continuity with previous COP decisions, particularly the Paris Agreement: achieving global net zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100. This will require policies to accelerate the energy transition in all its iterations, including the switch to electric transportation, and to put a halt to deforestation.
The second goal concerns the protection of local communities and natural habitats threatened by the consequences of climate change, protecting ecosystems, and creating resilient infrastructure.
The third goal is to mobilize the financial resources necessary to deliver on the first two. Developed nations must keep their promise to allocate at least 100 billion dollars a year to this effort and everyone must play their part, from the public and private sectors to international financial institutions.
Finally, in light of the first three goals, it is essential to strengthen international partnerships between governments, businesses and civil society in order to multiply climate action initiatives. COP26 will be an opportunity to consolidate such partnerships and put into practice the operational rules established as a result of the Paris Agreement.
Paris outlined an ambitious goal and now it is Glasgow’s turn to make it a reality: this could be a decisive moment that could enable us to pass on a sustainable world to our children and grandchildren. “I have faith that working together with all of you in a collaborative manner, we will make the right choices. We owe that to ourselves and to future generations,” explained Sharma. “I asked my daughters what message I should give world leaders. Their response was simple: please tell them to choose Earth.”