United Nation’s annual climate change conference, or the COP26, starts in Glasgow on the last of October. As a “COP veteran” and member of the Finnish official delegation in the meetings back in 2003, 2004 and 2005 in Milan, Buenos Aires and Montreal, I decided to check where we currently are in the fight against climate change.

As always, hopes are high, the need is evident, but expectations vary. It seems that the basic set up for the meeting remains the same: negotiations take place in different fora before and during the meeting. The role of the chairperson (this time Alok Sharma, a seasoned politician and decision-maker from the UK) is to try to keep everybody happy enough to stay at the conference.

To reach an outcome in line with the expectations for the meeting is something that only a few of the COP meetings have been able to reach (Kyoto, Paris). It is part of the drill that not much is agreed during the set dates: the meeting continues after the last day and the outcome is agreed upon when most of the people have already caught their planes back home. Yes, planes.

Compared to the earlier COP’s one thing has clearly changed and it is not a very pleasant one. There has been a shift from mitigation to adaptation as many countries already live the consequences of the warming globe. Clearly, the earlier decisions have not been effective enough to change the pathway we are on.

For the industrialised countries we could even argue that we have wasted, not only our own, but somebody else’s time. Why is that? The industrialised countries have had centuries to pollute the air whereas developing countries are only reaching that welfare level – only to find out that they cannot do it in the same way.

Many of the Western countries, cities and even companies have declared their own zero emission and carbon-free objectives – which is of course very good. The challenge is that cutting these emissions will not save the world.

Some people and companies in Europe may argue that they need compensations and help in achieving these targets. The need is nevertheless much greater in the developing world, and this is what the COP really is about.

Who should the pay for the change? Now, that is the million-euro question. We will all pay dearly if we do not act quicker than until now, so the right question actually is: can I pay now?

Susanna Korpivaara
Managing Partner, Rud Pedersen Public Affairs
Chair, Finnish-British Trade Association