What is COP26 and can it save the world? – FFA

This weekend, Glasgow hosts the COP26 Climate Summit. It’s a decisive moment in the race to stabilise the climate. This is what must happen

What is COP26?

COP26 is the 26th international summit on climate change organized by the UN. COP (conference of the parties) events bring together the world’s nations to discuss the climate crisis and how to respond to it.

The first COP1 conference was held in Berlin in 1991. Climate change has evolved from a fringe concern into a major issue of our time.

This year’s event takes place in Glasgow. The 12 day conference will bring together world leaders and thousands of negotiators, representatives of government, business people, and citizens. The public can also take part in fringe events.

When is COP26? 

COP26 will begin on 31 October and end on 12 November. However, COP meetings can sometimes drag on as negotiations drag on so the event might not conclude until a day or two later. 

The event was originally planned to take place 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic. 

Why is COP26 so important

COP26 is just a few months later the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reportPublication was made. It was alarming reading and warned that there would be a climate catastrophe without drastic action to reduce emissions. 

The summit in Glasgow has been described by some politicians as a “make or break” moment for the environment. John Kerry, the US climate envoy, said that it is the world’s “last best chance” to avert climate catastrophe.

What is COP26?

COP26 is just months after the IPCC issued dire warnings about the climate. Image by NOAA

Campaigners hope that COP26 will build on the progress made by COP21, which was hosted in Paris in 2015. World leaders met to agree to prevent global warming from exceeding 2C in comparison to pre-industrial times. They also agreed to keep it below 1.5C. 

The Paris agreementBecause it united nations around a common goal to stop climate change, it was hailed a landmark moment in climate policy. There is still a significant gap between the Paris goal and the policies that will achieve it. Global carbon emissions are still increasing rapidly, setting the world up for worse warming. COP26 aims to bring policies in line the Paris agreement. 

Why is it important to limit temperature rises below 1.5C?

A 2018 report by the IPCCA global temperature rise of 2C could have a devastating effect on humanity, according to the report. It warned that a third of the world’s population would be regularly exposed to severe heat, leading to health problems and malnutrition as people struggled to grow food.

This would also cause coral reefs to disappear and increase sea levels as sea ice melts. Scientists warn that unless carbon emissions are drastically cut, humanity could experience 2C warming. 

What is COP26?

At COP26, nations will be encouraged to accelerate the adoption of renewables. Image: Zbynek Burival

A 1.5C increase in temperature would still be dangerous, but the effects will be much less severe and considered a safe upper limit. Scientists believe that 1.5C is out of reach. If not, it’s rapidly closing.  

What are the goals and objectives of COP26 

The main objective of COP26 is to secure an agreement by all nations to achieve net-zero emission by 2050. Most countries have already pledged to do so, but China, the world’s largest emitter, set a later date of 2060. Australia doesn’t even have a net-zero target, neither does Russia. 

The summit will encourage countries to cut their emissions short-term and boost ambition among reluctant countries. The UK has already committed to reducing its emissions by 78% by 2035. It will lobby other countries to join the ranks of the UK as host of this summit. 

At COP26, reforestation and other nature-based solutions to climate change will be promoted. Image: Johannes Plenio

COP26 will force countries to speed up the phase-out and deforestation of coal, accelerate the switch to electric cars, and invest more in renewables. This will mean securing concessions from China, which is building more coal-fired power plants, and Australia, which is one of the world’s leading coal exporters, and is led by a prime minister who is a vocal supporter of the coal industry. 

The summit will also try to address climate finance. In 2009, the world’s wealthiest nations pledged £100bn annually by 2020 to help developing countries tackle climate change. The target was not met. COP26 will try to increase the funds. 

The summit will also focus on nature-based solutions such as restoring forests, peatlands, and other carbon sinks. Nations will be encouraged and supported to invest more in habitat restoration.

How will COP26 be organized? 

There will be two zones: the blue and the green. The blue zone will be where formal negotiations between countries, the UN, and other organizations will take place. The green zone will be home to events that the public can attend, such as film screenings and talks, technical demonstrations, and art installations.

Glasgow, Summit host, has committed that he will be carbon neutral by 2030. Image: Artur Kraft

Are there tickets to Cop26?

Tickets for green zone events can be purchased by members of the public online. Tickets are available for free and can be reserved up to six times. For those who can’t attend in person, most events will be streamed live via the COP26 YouTube channel.

Where is COP26 held? 

The Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow will host the summit.

Main image: Markus Spiske