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What is COP26 and why is it important?

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4th November 2021

Latest blog from WEEE producer compliance scheme, REPIC to mark COP26 taking place 31st October 2021 – 12th November 2021 in Glasgow, UK.

What is COP?

‘COP’ stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. The Parties are the governments which have signed the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC). Effectively, every nation, country or state in the world is involved and is a signatory for the UNFCCC, there are a total of 197 signatory parties.

Each year representatives from every party come together at a COP, to discuss how to jointly address climate change on a global level.

The COP is hosted by a different country each year and the first such meeting – ‘COP1’ – took place in Berlin, Germany in 1995. It is attended by world leaders, ministers, and representatives from civil society, business, international organisations, and the media.

What is COP26?

COP26 is a critical summit for global climate action. For the first time, the conference is being held in the UK and hosted by Glasgow. COP26 was originally scheduled to take place in November 2020 but was postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now taking place between Sunday 31st October – Friday 12th November 2021.

Why is COP26 important?

COP26 is being seen as a pivotal summit to review what has been achieved since 2015 when the Paris Accord was signed and also to set firm plans to reach the Paris Agreement Targets. All eyes will be on each country’s revised NDCs (nationally determined contributions) to see if global emissions can be halved by 2030 and how many countries will reach ‘net-zero’ by 2050.

The most important COP to date was Paris 2015 which agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, preferably 1.5 degrees C, compared to pre-industrial levels. The main task for COP26 is to follow through on this commitment and ensure that the combined NDCs reduce global carbon emissions to levels that hold 21st century warming as close to 1.5 degrees C as possible.

Togetherforourplanet
Everyday people making changes and showcasing WEEE producer compliance scheme, REPIC’s activities

#TogetherForourPlanet – UK’s year of climate change

As COP26 hosts, the UK has been involving as many businesses, civil society groups, schools and individuals in conversations on tackling climate change. A campaign that started in earnest over 18 months ago under the umbrella of #TogetherForOurPlanet.

As part of this campaign, #OneStepGreener aims to showcase how people from all over the UK are already doing their bit on climate change, from the engineers working on the offshore wind farms now powering homes and businesses, to local initiatives encouraging parents to walk their children to school. The intention was to create a mass movement of green steps across the country in the lead up to COP26, showing how small individual actions can contribute to large scale collective action.

The WEEE producer compliance team has contributed to this with local #OneStepGreener initiatives in the lead up to and during COP26:

  • REPIC has pledged to regularly donate volunteer-hours to keep its local neighbourhood free of litter. The WEEE producer compliance scheme team based in Bury, Manchester has been out and about already tidying up the local areas.

  • Going greener might look different for every business. One small step REPIC has made is to adopt a green travel policy for all employees. We also encourage the team to partake in initiatives such as World Car Free Day.

  • The Scottish team were out in force during COP26 on the beaches of Dunbar, tidying up the local authority areas in which it operates.

    Delivering these smaller ‘green steps’ is being firmly embraced by the team at the UK’s leading WEEE producer compliance scheme. However, delivering net zero requires large scale transformation and more resource efficient secondary raw material use. It is in the work that REPIC does to collect, reuse and recycle WEEE, where significant carbon savings are being made.

WEEE sector potential to contribute to net zero

According to the Environmental Services Association, the UK recycling sector saves 50 billion tonnes of carbon emissions per annum. Whilst collecting and transporting waste recyclables uses fuel and energy and therefore results in carbon dioxide emissions, the avoided energy from using recycled materials, rather than virgin materials, results in significantly more avoided carbon dioxide emissions. The carbon benefits of recycling therefore by far outweigh the impacts of collection and processing. This is particularly true of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) which is predominantly made from metals and plastics. Since their introduction in 2007, the UK WEEE Regulations have had a significant role in increasing the amount of WEEE recycled. During this time REPIC has recycled 3 million tonnes on behalf of our members.

To gather better data on the carbon benefits and impacts of collecting and recycling WEEE, REPIC has participated in the Eco-I North West initiative. 80 businesses have collaborated with six leading universities in a first of its kind research and development programme for low carbon innovation. The Eco-I North West is a £14million initiative that opens up a huge academic regional resource to businesses and offers the opportunity for participants to lead and benefit from the transition to a low carbon economy.

This initiative has led REPIC to secure the services of a master level researcher from Lancaster University to develop a tool to help quantify the carbon savings of electrical and electronic waste recycling, and to identify where further carbon savings may be possible. This work is the start of a process to collect and monitor data to inform business decisions in future years.

REPIC works on behalf of manufacturers of household electrical equipment in the UK working to collect, treat and responsibly recycle waste electricals in dedicated treatment plants. Through this process, various component materials can be salvaged, handled safely and converted into new, usable raw materials, contributing to the circular economy.

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