Wait, what is COP26?
COP stands for Conference Of the Parties, the party being the 197 members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is an international climate summit bringing together activists, government officials, and business leaders to address climate change matters for the 26th time.
Every country needs to come together to accelerate concrete action to tackle climate change head-on. This years COP26 will accelerate action on the goals agreed to during the Paris Agreement, where almost every country in the world entered into a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Hang on… why do we need to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C anyway?
Every fraction of degree warming matters. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (basically the gold standard for climate science) highlighted: by limiting warming to 1.5°C can avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Read the report here.
The report also showed that human activities, like burning fossil fuels have already caused around 1°C of global warming. But, as the report shows, “these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence)”. Which essentially says, we’ve still got a shot at hanging on to 1.5°C. But here’s the catch, we need to act now and, according to the IPCC - essentially cut out fossil fuel emissions in half by 2030 to do this. This means moving extremely fast to say goodbye to oil, gas, and coal and transition to clean energy all around the world as quickly as possible.
The main goals of COP26 are clearly set out:
1. SECURE GLOBAL NET ZERO BY MID-CENTURY AND KEEP 1.5 DEGREES WITHIN REACH
Every country is expected to up the ante with updated emissions reduction targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. To deliver on these targets, countries will need to accelerate on everything - from phasing out coal, speeding up the switch to electric vehicles, encouraging investment into renewables, and conserving forests.
2. ADAPT TO PROTECT COMMUNITIES AND NATURAL HABITATS
Our climate is changing rapidly and will continue to do so even as we reduce emissions. And sadly, it is often those that have done the least to cause climate change that will feel the effects the most. At COP26, leaders will work together to support the countries most affected by climate change by helping to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, warning systems, and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to support livelihoods. Hear more about this from Sir David Attenborough’s opening speech.
3. MOBILISE FINANCE
To deliver on the first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
4. WORK TOGETHER TO DELIVER
No one country can solve the global issue of climate change alone, we can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together. Attending countries at COP will need to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society.
We know what the government needs to do to get those goals off the ground. And the truth is, a lot of us feel we don't have as much power as corporations and governments to create change, but throughout history, we've seen that change has come about from ordinary people and movements.
Let’s hope COP26 delivers!