Legal briefing | Environment & Regulatory, Environment & Climate Change, Business Ethics & Human Rights |

COP26: The UK leads by example?

Overview

On 20 April the UK Government announced that it would significantly increase its climate ambition, ahead of the COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow in November. The UK's Climate Change Act commits it to net zero by 2050, and it recently adopted a new Nationally Determined Contribution ("NDC") under the Paris Agreement of 68% reduction against 1990 levels by 2030. Yesterday's announcement commits to a bolder target of 78% reduction in annual emissions by 2035, putting the UK on the right trajectory to meet the net zero/2050 goal. 

Notably, carbon accounting will include the UK's share of international shipping and aviation emissions. These have previously been counted only when occurring within the UK's borders, leading to criticism that reductions were being overstated.

 

Key strands of the emissions reduction strategy, according to the Committee on Climate Change, must include the adoption of new low-carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and heating, continuing progression of low-carbon energy including hydrogen, land use changes and greenhouse gas removals. The Committee on Climate Change also recommends personal behavioural changes, such as consumption of fewer meat and dairy products and less frequent flying, though the Government states that people's freedom of choice will be maintained.

 

The new target is based on the Sixth Carbon Budget, setting emissions for 2033 to 2037, as required by the Climate Change Act. It will be enacted into law via a statutory instrument which is expected to be finalised in June. While the pledge has been welcomed by most, questions remain over the use of relatively ambitious long-term targets by the Government without putting in place the necessary policies in order for them to be delivered, which will be an important focus of COP26 generally.

 

The international community is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the US climate summit later this week, where it is anticipated that the US's NDC will be set out in detail. The UK's enhanced pledge has therefore come at an important time – as China is also expected to submit a new NDC in the coming months (in addition to new NDCs for Japan, South Korea and Canada).

What will Travers Smith be doing in the run-up to COP26?

Over the coming months, Travers Smith will be updating this page to keep you informed of all the key developments and news in the run-up to COP26. Travers Smith is involved in a number of different initiatives connected to COP26.

For example:

  • Jonathan Gilmour, our Head of Derivatives and Structured Products at Travers Smith, has recently been appointed to the Principles & Contracts Working Group of the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets. Launched in September 2020, this is a private sector initiative working to scale a workable carbon credit market so companies can meet their carbon reduction commitments through purchasing carbon offsets.

  • Travers Smith's Environment Committee is actively committed to helping the firm reduce its overall carbon footprint and acting in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. For more information on our efforts in this area, please see our Environment page here.

  • Please also see our Sustainable Business Hub – where you can find resources designed to help you and your business to anticipate regulatory developments, proactively manage risk and achieve your ESG focused business objectives.

For further information, please contact

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COP26

Return to our COP26 Hub for the latest news, views and key announcements.

COP26