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What are we calling for at COP26?

What are we calling for at COP26?

From 31 October to 12 November, global leaders will come together in Glasgow to discuss climate change and our future at COP26.

The conference will be co-hosted by the UK and Italy, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. This is our final opportunity to get global emissions trajectories on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and is the world’s major annual climate conference, where world leaders meet to negotiate and agree plans to tackle climate change.

Prior to COP26 (the 26th conference), COP21 was considered the most important. Held in 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the Paris Agreement, aiming to keep the rise in global average temperature to ‘well below’ 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (and strive for 1.5 degrees). It also aimed to strengthen the ability of countries to adapt to climate change and increase finance flows towards the climate agenda.  

Crucially, a ‘bottom-up’ approach was taken, meaning that individual countries would submit their own ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (or NDCs) to achieve this goal. NDCs submitted in 2015 were not ambitious enough to remain within the 1.5 degree limit.

What is COP26 looking to achieve? 

COP26 is the first time that NDCs are to be updated. This is really important. Under current emissions trajectories, the chances of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is less than one percent.

In simple terms, therefore, success at COP26 will be measured by the ambition of these updated NDCs. Additionally, it will also be measured by how much ‘climate finance’ is mobilised by higher-income nations (with a target being set of 100bn$ per year at Paris) towards lower-income nations.

More specifically, Boris Johnson has emphasised that the UK are pushing for big commitments in a few key areas:

  • The phasing out of coal
  • Richer countries to commit to financially supporting the rest of the planet to go green
  • A rapid transition to electric vehicles
  • Protecting and restoring nature, with a particular emphasis on trees

What is the Soil Association calling for?

Whilst we’re calling for ambitious headline commitments, we think that the way in which countries go about achieving emissions reductions, is equally important. We want;

1. People must be at the heart of all climate policy, with a ‘Just Rural Transition’ underpinning action across the food and land-use sectors

There must be strong commitments from all countries to ensure that action on climate happens through engagement with the people that it will affect, enhances resilient livelihoods, encourages sustainable food production, and promotes good stewardship of land, soils, forests and oceans.

Governments must show leadership and champion a transition to a food and farming system that delivers healthy and sustainable diets, resilient livelihoods and meets climate and nature goals. The Sustainable Agriculture Dialogue on Nov 6 (Nature Day) will address the impact of industrialised food production and our leaders should commit to serious change.

A central tenet of this transition must be agroecology, whose principles directly facilitate a ‘Just Transition’. It must be made clear that farmers are a significant part of the solution and they need to be supported to make the transition to nature-friendly methods. This must happen in parallel with dietary change to encourage the consumption of less but better meat and more and better plants.

2. The biodiversity and climate agendas must become integrated with one another, and Nature-based Solutions (NbS), including agroecology, must be rapidly scaled up globally

Ambitious action on climate change can be self-defeating if it undermines biodiversity. A joined-up approach across biodiversity and climate action is therefore essential.

In the UK, recent legislation will place a legal obligation on the UK government to reverse the decline in our biodiversity. This means that any efforts to tackle climate change must not harm biodiversity at the same time and this must be reflected in the UK’s Net Zero commitments.

To achieve this agroecology, with a key focus on soil health, must be pushed forward as an essential NbS that can help to increase resilience, enhance biodiversity and provide emissions reductions. 

3. Richer nations must commit to ensuring that negative emissions technologies (including NbS) are not a substitute for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels

Whilst we welcome any uptake of NbS and technologies that sequester and store carbon that do not undermine people or biodiversity, this cannot come at the expense of emissions reductions. We advocate for the implementation of the NbS guidelines developed through the NbS Initiative, the first principle of which states that ‘NbS are not a substitute for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and must not delay urgent action to decarbonize our economies’.

4. The mobilisation of people across the globe to demand immediate action

Whether or not the COP26 negotiations are a success really matters. But however things turn out, what we need is people across the world to come together make it impossible for governments to ignore our demands for action. 

Pairs of wellies

Join us and show your support

We’re calling on you to join us at COP on Saturday 6 November for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice march in Glasgow. We’ll gather alongside other NGOs and climate activists starting at 11.30am at Kelvingrove Park, before marching to Glasgow Green for a rally at 3pm. Interested? Email for more details. Not based in Glasgow? Find your local march here

You can also show your support by downloading or requesting a printed version of our Climate Action packs. Grab yours here.

We'll be involved in a number of talks and events throughout the fortnight. Keep an eye on our website and social media for the latest updates.