COP26: Everything You Need to Know

The term ‘COP26’ is on everyone’s lips. Thousands of news articles, op-eds and lengthy LinkedIn posts are devoted to the topic.

So, what is COP26 and what will it achieve? Here’s an easy-to-follow cheat sheet for the upcoming event.

 

COP26: What, When and Where?


COP26 is the United Nation's 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties. 

The conference brings 197 participating nations together with the objective of “stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” (University of Edinburgh)

Or, in simpler terms, to reduce the impact of man-made climate change.

This year, the event is being hosted by the UK. It will be held in Glasgow at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) from October 31st to November 12th. 

 

What are the aims of COP26?

 

This year, the primary task of the COP will be to ensure that members are on target to reach their net zero emissions goals. It will also seek to accelerate the commitments set out in the Paris Agreement formed at COP21 in 2015. The agreement saw almost every nation move to make emission reduction goals law. (UK COP26)

This year, COP has set out four key goals. It is hoped that participating nations will make changes and introduce legislation in their own territories to achieve these aims. 

COP26 sets out four key goals:

Goal one: Secure global net zero by mid-century

This year will see COP seeking to persuade countries to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It is hoped that this will limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius - what is considered the 'safe' limit of climate change. (BBC)

To reach this goal, countries will need to quickly:

  • Stop using coal
  • Halt deforestation 
  • Switch to electric vehicles 
  • Invest in renewable energy 

 

Goal two: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats 

Sadly, climate change is already here; we are already witnessing the devastating consequences of a warmer planet - the wildfires in Greece and the extreme temperatures in Italy and Spain being just some recent examples.

That means countries will need to adapt to challenging circumstances by:

  • Restoring damaged ecosystems
  • Building warning systems and infrastructure to defend against property damage and loss of life

 

Goal three: Invest in the climate

Achieving net zero goals requires trillions in finance for infrastructure, education, energy sources and more. 

Developed nations have already pledged to spend $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020; COP26 will call on these nations to deliver on this promise. 

 

Goal four: Work together

Climate change cannot be tackled by a handful of participating countries. To achieve net zero goals, every single nation and territory will need to work as a collective.

Member states will need to:

  • Follow the rules set out in the Paris Agreement 
  • Collaborate with governments, businesses and citizens to encourage climate action

 

Challenges

While these goals express optimism, the COP also acknowledges the necessity of urgent action: "States and non-state actors alike are galvanizing behind the guiding star of net zero emissions before 2050, but we are running out of time. 

"We must urgently pivot to delivering the halving of our emissions by 2030, with robust short term plans and longer term strategies, if we want to deliver the promise of the Paris Agreement." (UK COP26)

 

Who will take part in COP26 and what will take place?

 

Delegates from 197 nations and territories will participate in the conference.

Over the two weeks, world leaders will take part in talks, briefings, meetings, negotiations and consultations. UN representatives will also be on hand to support negotiations.

You can expect lengthy media coverage, with several members of the international press set to attend.

Some prominent activists and figures will be in attendance, such as Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough and Pope Francis. 

Some members of the public will also take part in the event through workshops, presentations and exhibitions.

 

What are the anticipated impacts of COP26?


COP26 comes at a critical moment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published a report revealing that the world is warming faster than expected. It draws near-irrefutable links between human activity and climate change indicators including heatwaves and loss of Arctic Sea ice. 

Boris Johnson is quoted as saying he hopes the report “will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit.” (UK GOV)

For many people around the world, there is little need for a report of this nature; they have already experienced the real-life impacts of climate change. More than 10 million people were displaced by events like droughts, flooding and fires between September 2020 and February 2021.

Given this alarming trend, this year, COP will be keen to achieve a similar impact to what was achieved with COP21 in Paris in 2015, where most nations rallied to enshrine net zero targets into law. This year, it is hoped that international commitment to accelerated action on climate change will be renewed.

Success is especially important this year, given the general consensus that the previous COP25 event, held in Madrid in 2019, failed to achieve meaningful change. (BBC).

 

Final Thoughts

 

Global North Youth Co-Chair of the COP26 Civil Society and Youth Advisory Council, Bella Lack, gives a fitting account of the significance of COP26 when she says: “Right now our species is undermining and destabilising the very foundations that are necessary for life on earth to thrive. 

“We know that things are changing, and COP26 is one of our last and most crucial opportunities to make sure it is humanity that has to change, and not the planet.” (UK COP26)

 

Next Steps

 

Interested in what businesses like yours can do to address climate change? Explore our guide to ethical marketing.