As climate change continues to worsen with more and more heatwaves, fires and floods, Greenpeace asks what are world leaders looking to achieve at the COP26 in November this year?
This November, the UK will host world leaders in Glasgow at the 26th UN Climate Summit – also known as COP26. This is one of the biggest global meetings dedicated to tackling the climate crisis. But what is it all about? Let’s unpack it!
COP stands for Conference of the Parties. The “Parties” are the countries that have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).is the world’s major annual climate conference, where hundreds of world leaders meet to negotiate and agree plans for tackling climate change. COP26 will take place in Glasgow from Sunday 31st October to Friday 12th November 2021.
The conference will be the 26th meeting of its kind, which is why it’s called COP26. It was moved from its original date in 2020 because of the global coronavirus pandemic. The last COP was in 2019 in Madrid.
This is the most important meeting since COP21 in 2015, where nearly 200 world leaders signed the Paris climate agreement. This committed nearly all countries to stop climate change and deal with its causes and effects. In Paris, each nation promised to develop plans for deep cuts to their carbon emissions and present these plans five years later, in time for the COP26.
At the Paris conference 191 countries agreed:
* To stop the world’s average temperature rising more than two degrees, or ideally 1.5ºC
* To respond to the impacts of climate change through adaptation
* To make plans to deal with loss and damage from climate disasters
* For wealthier nations to provide finance and technology to help poor and more vulnerable countries deal with climate change
COP26 matters because this is the last decade the world has to avoid the worst impacts of global warming: unimaginable natural disasters, sea level rise, and mass extinction of wildlife. It’s also a unique opportunity to build a stronger and fairer global economy. The longer governments wait to take action, the harder it will be to succeed.
Representatives from all the world’s governments, plus people from NGOs, businesses, faith groups, scientists, and other groups such as Indigenous Peoples’ delegations will attend. Media outlets from around the world will also be present.
COPs take place over two weeks. The structure is a little different for this year’s COP (which usually begin with technical negotiations), as there’ll be a two-day World Leaders Summit at the very start.
Many countries still don’t have much access to Covid vaccines, so organisers are still working out how to keep the meeting safe for everyone to attend. Greenpeace believes COP26 should only go ahead if it is safely accessible to all participants.
COP26 is the deadline for countries to present their plans to cut emissions. Together, these plans need to set the world on track to stop global temperatures rising more than 1.5ºC by the end of the century. Despite being on the official agenda, these plans are very unlikely to be delivered.
Wealthy nations also promised $100 billion a year to help poorer countries reduce their emissions and protect themselves against the impacts of climate change. This isn’t expected to be on the formal COP26 agenda, but it should still be discussed. Climate damages have so far been poorly addressed in the formal negotiations – despite the countries most impacted by climate change asking for this to be taken more seriously.
For example, to keep temperatures below that 1.5ºC limit, every country needs to stop all new fossil fuel projects immediately, and stop burning coal altogether. Rich nations need to give extra financial support to poorer countries to do the same, and to help deal with the existing impacts of climate change.
Rules for carbon markets are also on the agenda for COP26. These complex discussions threaten to swamp the negotiations, leaving little room for more urgent agreements on climate finance and phasing out fossil fuels. Carbon markets should not become a distraction at COP26 in Glasgow. They often give countries and companies a “free pass” to pollute, through things like carbon offsetting.
Instead governments need to focus on making firm rules for companies to reduce emissions directly from their activities.
You can read more about Greenpeace at COP26 at: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/everything-need-to-know-cop26-climate-conference-glasgow/
In the run up to Glasgow you may be interested in an invitation from the Greener Jobs Alliance to attend their fringe meeting at the TUC Conference, 12.30pm-1.30pm Monday, 13 September. Register for free on this link: