COP26: what is it and why is it important?

By: Bernard de Wit

Co-founder Regreener
Published: October 20, 2021

By now you have probably heard of COP26, as media outlets have been frequently reporting on this upcoming event in recent weeks. But what exactly is COP26, what is its importance and what will be decided?

Delegates at a COP26 meeting

What is COP?

For close to three decades, the United Nations has brought together almost every country on earth for global climate summits - called COPs - which stands for Conference of the Parties. During that time, climate change has grown from a marginal issue to a global priority, and rightly so. Our planet is warming due to fossil fuel emissions caused by humans. Extreme weather conditions linked to climate change - such as heat waves, floods and forest fires - are becoming more frequent and severe. The previous decade was the warmest on record, and almost all countries agree that collective action is urgently needed. This year marks the 26th annual summit - hence the name COP26. With the UK in the chair, COP26 takes place in Glasgow. The previous COP ('COP21') took place in Paris in 2015. COP26 will be the largest climate conference since the landmark Paris talks.

What is the importance of COP26?

The global climate summit COP26 in Glasgow is seen as crucial to getting climate change under control. Nearly 200 countries are being asked about their plans to reduce emissions, which could lead to major changes in our daily lives. Some 25,000 delegates are expected to attend the summit in Glasgow. Tens of thousands of campaigners and businesses will also be there to hold events and protest.

Nearly 200 countries will send delegates, along with representatives from companies and climate action groups.

What are the goals of COP26?

According to the UNFCC, COP26 will work towards four goals:

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 (1) accelerate the phase-out of coal; (2) curtail deforestation; (3) speed up the switch to electric vehicles; and (4) encourage investment in renewables.

2) Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

Countries will work together to protect and restore ecosystems and build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.

3) Mobilise 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,” notes the UNFCCC.

4) Work together to deliver

Another important task at the COP26 is to ‘finalise the Paris Rulebook’. Leaders will work together to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

What will be decided at COP26?

Most countries will announce their ambitions to reduce emissions before the summit begins - so we should get an idea in advance of whether we are on track.

We can expect quite a few announcements on a different range of topics.

A pledge focussing on rainforest conservation is expected at this years summit

In the two weeks that COP26 takes place, we can expect quite a few announcements. Many of these are expected to be highly technical in nature. For example, the rules still needed to implement the Paris Agreement. But some other announcements could include: making a faster switch to electric cars, speeding up the phasing out of coal power, cutting down fewer trees and the protecting more people from the impacts of climate change, such as funding coastal defence system.

At the end of the conference, a joint declaration is expected. Each country will have to sign the declaration and it should contain specific commitments. The Regreener team will be closely following the conference in Glasgow and will be providing you with an after-event update, helping you to understand what has been discussed and decided.

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