COP 26 - What's the Glasgow Climate Conference?

Nov 03, 2021

By now, I'm sure you've heard of COP26.

And if you haven't, chances are that you will very soon because the UK (in partnership with Italy) is currently hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021.

If you didn’t already know, COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, fancy name huh? Who are these ‘parties’, you ask? Well, the Parties are the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is a treaty agreed in 1994 which has 197 Parties (196 countries and the EU). 

Why is COP26 so important? The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement as well as the above mentioned UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Basically it’s a huge event in the global sustainable development movement (of which you are a part)  - want to learn more? Keep reading...

You have almost certainly heard about the global goal to limit our planet’s temperature to 1.5 degrees. This lofty goal came out of the last COP (COP21 in Paris), where every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees. Enter - The Paris Agreement. Under the Agreement, each country has set out and committed to plans outlining exactly how they would reduce their emissions - these are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (or ‘NDCs’). They also agreed that they would come back with a reviewed and updated plan every 5 years to remain accountable to the Agreement, and in 2021 here we are! You can probably guess that COVID-19 had something to do with the 1 year delay, but hey better late than never.

What’s the big deal about limiting our planet’s temperature to 1.5 degrees?

You had to have been living under a rock to not be aware of the severe flooding and fires our planet has endured in recent years. Well, put it this way, at 2 degrees of global warming, a third of the world’s population would be exposed to severe heat on a regular basis, something which feels very real to many of us already. Further to this, the irreversible loss of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic could be triggered, which would lead to rising sea levels of several metres over the coming centuries.

However at 1.5°C, there would be:

  • lower risks of food and water shortages
  • lower risks to economic growth
  • fewer species at risk of extinction
  • fewer threats to human health 

Keep reading to familiarize yourself with COP26’s goals, of which there are four, (and let us know your thoughts on these goals in the comments below):


1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:

  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives

3. Mobilize finance

To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020. 

International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

At COP26 we must:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
  • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

Want more? You can find full details and further reading about COP26 and how you can make an impact here.

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