COP26 – Together for our planet

04 November 2021

By Kathleen Bell

COP26 – Together for Our Planet remains our last, best chance to ensure a functioning and healthy planet for future generations. Kicking off in Glasgow on October 31st the meeting aims to; 

Additionally, negotiators are tasked with how to decrease the overall global dependency on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gases.  

Action now is key. Anthropogenic global warming continues at pace as confirmed in the latest IPCC report - manifesting as extreme environmental events; heat waves, drought, flooding, melting polar ice caps, desertification, extinction of species and irreversible damage to habitat and biodiversity. 

Entwined within each of these discussions for COP26 delegates and negotiators are the challenges that climate change is occurring unevenly in the developing world, where achieving viable climate solutions at scale requires not only infusions of capital, but access to deep knowledge networks alongside indigenous solutions.  

The prospect for getting it wrong is dire and does present itself as a herculean task.  That is the formidable challenge of COP26. 

In his impassioned opening remarks to world leaders, Sir David Attenborough tells us not to despair, “our motivation should not be fear, but hope.”


Since the Conference of Parties (COP) began 26 years ago, some gatherings have been more successful than others, but so far it has failed to mobilise the sustained effort we need for widespread decarbonising. The climate emergency we find ourselves in is a result of tepid action over the last 30 years.  

Part of that lies in the nature of a UN conference such as this. It’s often a circus, with the added intricacies of negotiating in a high-level diplomatic environment. It’s complex, touching on all aspects of humanity – economic, political, social, technological, cultural, and ecological. This year offers the unique challenge of falling amid a global health pandemic that is still affecting countries at varying levels. Relations between the United States, Brazil, Russia, India, China and Europe complicate collaboration even further. 

While each country has its own agenda, not all attendees have the same available capital or negotiating power.  What’s clear is that even with varying definitions of success, pledges without a collaborative approach to meeting them will only exacerbate inaction and hamstring our efforts. 

The COP26 daily sessions present an audacious opportunity for true systems level thinking coupled with agile problem solving; the likes of which our planet has never experienced before. 

So, what’s next?  Here is some further information to gain a better understanding of New Zealand’s delegation and how you can engage with COP26 and meaningful action at a local level. 

New Zealand’s Delegation 

The New Zealand delegation will be led by the Minister for Climate Change and Associate Minister for the Environment James Shaw. He takes with him an updated Nationally Determined Contribution, and recently announced commitment to increase New Zealand’s climate aid contribution to $1.3 billion over 4 years.  

This time we go into COP with more legislative backing for lower emissions, including the Zero Carbon Act and the recent Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosures and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has also provided a detailed webinar for stakeholders, hosted by Ambassador Kay Harrison, Climate Change on the country’s formal priorities.   

How to Engage with COP26

The COP26 agenda is important for everyone in our sector and any New Zealand businesses involved in the built environment.  Although the Glasgow time zone might be challenging to join live there are a host of webinars you can attend virtually or as a recorded session. To coincide with the main Presidency Programme there is also a Green Zone Programme of Events. One event of note is the first Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day on 11 November.  

At NZGBC we’re celebrating Kāinga Ora’s Nga Kāinga Anamata (The 5 Systems Programme) which is being featured in the UK Green Building Council’s Build Better Now Virtual Pavilion. 

In addition to COP26, closer to home the Auckland Climate Festival has recently wrapped up.  NZGBC was proud to participate. While there are many great sessions to check out, two of particular interest come from Climate Collage led by Pete Bernhardt, and Parents for Climate Aotearoa, led by Alicia Hall. 

COP26 is an opportunity to take stock of our carbon reduction efforts and collaborate with the global community. Importantly, it’s also an opportunity to ensure our leaders are taking climate seriously. As COP26 plays out we’ll be watching the performance and commitments of our delegation closely. We’d encourage you to do the same, and to hold our leaders to account as we work to create a zero-carbon future.