What is COP26? Here’s what’s expected from the global climate summit

Over two weeks in November, world leaders and nationwide negotiators will meet in Scotland to debate what to do about climate change. It’s a posh course of that may be laborious to make sense of from the outdoors, nevertheless it’s how worldwide legislation and establishments assist resolve issues that no single nation can repair by itself.

I labored for the United Nations for a number of years as a legislation and coverage adviser and have been concerned in worldwide negotiations. Here’s what’s occurring behind closed doorways and why persons are involved that COP26 may not meet its objectives.

What is COP26?

In 1992, nations agreed to a global treaty known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which units floor guidelines and expectations for global cooperation on combating climate change. It was the first time the majority of countries formally acknowledged the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, which trigger global warming that drives climate change.


That treaty has since been up to date, together with in 2015 when nations signed the Paris Agreement. That settlement set the aim of limiting global warming to “nicely under” 2 levels Celsius (3.6 levels Fahrenheit), and ideally to 1.5 levels C (2.7 levels F), to avoid catastrophic climate change.

COP26 stands for the twenty sixth Convention of Events to the UNFCCC. The “parties” are the 196 nations that ratified the treaty plus the European Union. The United Kingdom, partnering with Italy, is internet hosting COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 by means of Nov. 12, 2021, after a one-year postponement resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why are world leaders so centered on climate change?

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newest report, launched in August 2021, warns in its strongest phrases but that human activities have unequivocally warmed the planet, and that climate change is now widespread, speedy, and intensifying.

The IPCC’s scientists clarify how climate change has been fueling excessive weather events and flooding, extreme heat waves and droughts, loss and extinction of species, and the melting of ice sheets, and rising of sea levels. UN Secretary-Normal António Guterres known as the report a “code red for humanity.”

Sufficient greenhouse fuel emissions are already in the environment, and so they keep there lengthy sufficient, that even under the most ambitious scenario of nations rapidly decreasing their emissions, the world will expertise rising temperatures by means of a minimum of mid-century.

Nonetheless, there stays a slim window of alternative. If nations can lower global emissions to net zero by 2050, that would convey warming again to beneath 1.5 levels C in the second half of the twenty first century. Methods to get nearer to that course is what leaders and negotiators are discussing.

What occurs at COP26?

Throughout the first days of the convention, round 120 heads of state, like U.S. President Joe Biden, and their representatives will collect to show their political dedication to slowing climate change.


As soon as the heads of state depart, nation delegations, usually led by ministers of atmosphere, have interaction in days of negotiations, occasions, and exchanges to adopt their positions, make new pledges, and join new initiatives. These interactions are primarily based on months of prior discussions, coverage papers, and proposals ready by teams of states, UN employees, and different specialists.

Nongovernmental organizations and enterprise leaders additionally attend the convention, and COP26 has a public side with periods centered on matters, reminiscent of the impression of climate change on small island states, forests or agriculture, in addition to exhibitions, and different occasions.

The assembly ends with an final result textual content that every one nations conform to. Guterres publicly expressed disappointment with the COP25 final result, and there are signs of trouble heading into COP26.

What is COP26 expected to perform?

Nations are required beneath the Paris Settlement to replace their nationwide climate motion plans each 5 years, together with at COP26. This yr, they’re expected to have formidable targets by means of 2030. These are often known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

The Paris Settlement requires nations to report their NDCs, nevertheless it permits them leeway in figuring out how they scale back their greenhouse fuel emissions. The preliminary set of emission reduction targets in 2015 was far too weak to restrict global warming to 1.5 levels Celsius.

One key aim of COP26 is to ratchet up these targets to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the center of the century.

One other purpose of COP26 is to increase climate finance to assist poorer nations transition to wash vitality and adapt to climate change. This is an essential challenge of justice for a lot of growing nations whose people bear the largest burden from climate change however have contributed least to it. Rich nations promised in 2009 to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to assist growing nations, a goal that has not been reached. The U.S., U.Ok., and EU, amongst the largest historic greenhouse emitters, are rising their monetary commitments, and banks, companies, insurers, and personal traders are being requested to do extra.

Other objectives embody phasing out coal use and producing options that protect, restore, or regenerate pure carbon sinks, reminiscent of forests.

One other problem that has derailed previous COPs is agreeing on implementing a carbon trading system outlined in the Paris Settlement.

Are nations on observe to fulfill the worldwide climate objectives?

The UN warned in September 2021 that nations’ revised targets had been too weak and would depart the world on tempo to warm 2.7 degrees C (4.9 levels F) by the finish of the century. Nonetheless, governments are additionally dealing with one other problem this fall that would have an effect on how they reply: Energy supply shortages have left Europe and China with value spikes for pure fuel, coal, and oil.

China—the world’s largest emitter—has not yet submitted its NDC. Main fossil gas producers, reminiscent of Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Australia appear unwilling to strengthen their commitments. India—a essential participant as the second-largest client, producer, and importer of coal globally—has additionally not but dedicated.


Different growing nations, reminiscent of Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, and Mexico are essential. So is Brazil, which, under Javier Bolsonaro’s watch, has elevated deforestation of the Amazon—the world’s largest rainforest and essential for biodiversity and eradicating carbon dioxide from the environment.

What occurs if COP26 doesn’t meet its objectives?

Many insiders consider that COP26 won’t reach its goal of getting sturdy sufficient commitments from nations to chop global greenhouse fuel emissions 45% by 2030. Which means the world received’t be on a clean course for reaching internet zero emissions by 2050 and the aim of holding warming beneath 1.5 levels C.

However organizers keep that holding warming beneath 1.5 levels C is nonetheless potential. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been leading the U.S. negotiations, remains hopeful that sufficient nations will create momentum for others to strengthen their discount targets by 2025.

[Photo: Climate Action Tracker]

The price of failure is astronomical. Research have proven that the difference between 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius can imply the submersion of small island states, the death of coral reefs, excessive warmth waves, flooding and wildfires, and pervasive crop failure.