What is COP26?

The annual and largest United Nations climate change conference, COP26, is currently being held in Glasgow, with an estimated 30,000 participants. Taking place one year later than intended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference launched on 31st October and runs until 12th November 2021.

The COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and nations that have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which came into effect in 1994, will be present at the summit. This is the 26th COP Summit, which the UK and Italy will co-host.

Time for change

Many people believe this is the most significant climatic event since the 2015 Paris Agreement. At the time, all parties in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change committed to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees. The Paris agreement fell well short of reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Owing to the time to reach this objective is running out, the decade leading up to 2030 will be critical.

As historic as Paris was, governments across the world must go further than before to keep the hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees alive. The COP26 meeting must be decisive.

Goals for COP26

  • Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach – Countries are required to propose ambitious emission reduction targets by 2030, consistent with achieving net zero emissions by the middle of this century. To achieve these demanding goals, countries need to:
    • Accelerate the phase-out of carbon
    • Reduce deforestation
    • Accelerate the shift to electric vehicles
    • Encourage investment in renewable energy
  • Protection of natural ecosystems and communities Despite efforts in reducing climate change, there will still be severe effects. COP26 plans for countries to collaborate and encourage countries affected by climate change to:
    • Protect and restore the ecosystems which are impacted by climate change
    • Establish resilient defences, warning systems, infrastructure and agriculture to prevent loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
  • Mobilise finance Developed countries must fulfil their promises to mobilize at least US$100 billion in climate financing each year. International financial institutions must play a role, and we must work hard to release trillions of dollars in public sector financing and private demand to ensure global net zero.
  • Work together to deliver – Only by working together can we meet the challenges of the climate crisis. At COP26, the response to climate change will be accelerated through cooperation between the government, business and the general public.

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