Pre-COP: Signals from Milan to Glasgow and the world

Top-five conclusions from pre-COP, by Mattias Goldmann

“We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future”, said the UN general secretary António Guterres at the pre-COP in Milan, a five day preparatory conference ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November. “Bla Bla Bla”, was Greta Thunberg’s verdict. Certainly, there has been more talk than actual emissions reductions in the 25 previous COP global climate meetings – but can COP26 deliver something better? Here are the top-five conclusions from pre-COP.

  1. Most didn’t bother. Climate and energy ministers from around 50 countries attended – that might sound a lot, but it is just over a fourth of the negotiating parties to meet at the real COP. Since many of the unresolved issues are highly political and need to be solved at ministerial level, that meant that not much meaningful negotiations could be held.
  2. Youth pressure impact to be determined. The Youth4Climategot more coverage than the actual preCOP, and may become an annual event before the COP meetings, but besides providing media friendly quotes and a sense of urgency, it remains unclear whether it in fact influences negotiations – and business pressure was fairly absent from PreCOP, focusing on the climate week in New York a few weeks earlier.
  3. Ambitions increasing – but not everywhere. After the world’s two biggest economies and biggest emitters, the US and China, both promised climate neutrality (by 2050 and 2060, respectively), we expected others to follow – in line with the Paris Agreement’s demand for enhanced action. And whilst many, including the EU, have delivered stronger emissions reductions commitments, important emitters such as Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Russia have not increased ambitions, and the world’s third largest emitter India have not submitted a new NDC at all (see Climate Action tracker,
  4. Climate funding is up, but still too low. At COP26, as usual, the international climate funding is going to be a dealbreaker, with an understandable disappointment from the developing world that developed countries have failed to meet the pledge of USD 100 billion in annual finance. After the US pledge to double its funding to the Green Climate Fund (to 11.4 billion USD), it was hoped that many countries would follow suit – but few did. Sweden pledged a billion SEK (just under 100 million euro), Italy “half promised” a billion euros.
  5. No “no coal”-agreement was made. After repeated failure from G7 and G20 to come up with a clear pledge to phase out coal as energy source, it was hoped some sort of agreement would surface in Milan. It did not.

The chicken race is on. That negotiating parties wait for others to move first, before showing what they are prepared to do, is nothing new, and this is particularly true when the same parties have negotiated the same issues for 26 consecutive conferences. Hopefully many want to save their commitments, pledges, funding and enhanced action for the actual COP meeting. But the inaction of key players even after the US, China and the EU have acted, is worrying, especially since the list of unresolved issues for COP26 is long, as spelled out by the UNFCCC:

  • Increasing ambition in reducing emissions to ensure that the 1.5C goal remains within reach
  • Increasing ambition on the provision of finance and support to developing countries to enable them to act on climate change
  • Improving approaches to averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage from climatic extremes
  • Establishing a global goal on adaptation to decrease vulnerability, boost resilience-building through adaptation planning and the implementation of adaptation actions
  • Advancing the technicalities needed for countries to transparently report on their climate actions and support needed or received
  • Advancing the detailed rules for the market and non-market mechanisms, through which countries can cooperate to meet their emission reduction targets.


COP26 must deliver. No one can be confident that it will. Everyone can do their part to help; now more than ever positive examples, inspiring frontrunners and pressure on our governments is useful and can make the difference we all need.


(For inspiration, follow the “Bridge Talks to COP26”; find out more on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter #TheBridge)