Case study: Climate change and COP26: "Keeping 1.5 alive"

Well before COP26 (Glasgow, November 2021), the science told us that urgent action was required if we wanted to prevent global warming exceeding the Paris-agreed limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It had not been possible to meet in 2020 due to COVID-19, so COP26 was the first meeting in two years at which decisions could be made — upping the pressure. 

Aotearoa New Zealand’s delegation was led by the Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, and included officials from MFAT, the Ministry for the Environment and MPI. Representatives of the Government of Tokelau, iwi/Māori, and business were also part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s delegation.

To influence global ambition effectively, Aotearoa New Zealand needed to have its own house in order. Leading up to COP26, Aotearoa New Zealand: increased its Nationally Determined Contribution to align it with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees; quadrupled its contribution of climate finance to developing countries; set out Aotearoa New Zealand’s long-term low-emissions development strategy; and was well underway to delivering its
whole-of-economy Emissions Reduction Plan (released in May 2022). MFAT led or contributed to all these processes.

An image of NZ negotiators celebrating with others after agreement on the Glasgow Climate Pact was reached. .
"Flexing for 1.5" - Aotearoa New Zealand negotiators celebrating with others after agreement on the Glasgow Climate Pact was reached. Credit: MFAT.

In the formal negotiations, Aotearoa New Zealand contributed to the completion of the rules to operationalise the Paris Agreement. The final chapters of the rulebook, delivered at Glasgow, related to:

  • transparency — enabling scrutiny of all parties’ actions (with Aotearoa New Zealand co-facilitating these negotiations at both Ministerial and officials’ levels);
  • ensuring the environmental integrity of international carbon markets; and
  • common timeframes for future Nationally Determined Contributions.

Aotearoa New Zealand worked closely with Pacific negotiators on their priority issues, including 1.5 degrees, climate finance, loss and damage, and delivering an overall reduction in global emissions from international carbon markets. MFAT also supported the Pacific by working closely with SPREP, providing a shared office space, and funding side events highlighting Pacific issues.

COP26 and its Glasgow Climate Pact focused on the scale and urgency of action required to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. Critically for Aotearoa New Zealand, COP26 saw the ambition gap narrowed substantially. While 1.5 degrees has not yet been secured, the Glasgow Climate Pact forms the basis for ratcheting-up action.


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