What is COP26?
Are you hearing a lot about COP26 in the news cycle but not quite sure what it is?
In practical terms, COP26 is a conference organised by the United Nations that is bringing together countries from all around the world to discuss climate change. As it becomes an ever-pressing and unavoidable crisis, it has become a priority in recent years that nations pull together and align on how to tackle it.
In literal terms, COP is short for ‘Conference of Parties’, while 26 refers to it being the 26th annual event - thus the rather succinct acronym, COP26.
From the beginning of November, the UK will host COP26 in Glasgow alongside its partners Italy. British and Italian leaders will shape the agenda and as hosts, they will encourage other nations to push for more ambitious climate change pledges. MP Alok Sharma has been appointed as the President and will lead the UK’s efforts ahead of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.
More than 190 world leaders, thousands of negotiators, businesses, NGOs, journalists, citizens and protesters will descend upon the Scottish Event Campus for 12 days of talks. The Queen, climate change activist Greta Thunberg and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough are among the notable attendees.
In readiness for the summit, councils in Glasgow have pledged to plan 18 million trees. The city was also recently awarded with the accolade of Global Green City and has set a target of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030.
COP26 offers an opportunity for nations to review the progress from COP21 and the all-important and momentous 2015 Paris Agreement, whereby every country agreed to work towards keeping warming well below two degrees and bring forward national targets on how they would reduce their emissions – known as the Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. The UK also has aims to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational).
Given the accelerating climate crisis, it is no surprise that climate targets set by countries in 2015 were nowhere near enough to meet this goal. COP26 is happening at a pivotal moment, as experts believe it is the last real opportunity to avert a global climate catastrophe.
What are the COP26 goals?
The UK government it has stated its four main goals for COP26:
1. Secure global net-zero emissions by 2050 and keep the 1.5C temperature increase within reach
Countries have been asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by 2050. In order to deliver these, countries will need to accelerate the phase-out the use of coal, curb reliance on deforestation, accelerate the switch to electric vehicles and actively encourage investment in renewable energy sources.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
With climate change already in effect and continuing to affect the world even as emissions reduce, countries will be asked to work together to protect and restore ecosystem, build defences and warning systems as well as robust infrastructure and agriculture in order to avoid the loss of homes, livelihoods and lives.
3. Mobilise finance
Developed nations will be asked to deliver on their promise to offer at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020. International financial institutions will also release the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
4. Collaborate to deliver
Countries will be asked to take collective action to tackle climate challenges and accelerate action between governments, businesses and civil society.
Whatever the outcome of COP26, it is clear everyone will need take a much more radical approach to net zero emissions, especially if they are serious about keeping the temperature rise of the planet to 1.5 degrees. This is the only way we can restore and protect our ecosystem and prevent further disasters that have already and will threaten the lives of animals, humans and livelihoods across the globe.