COP26 -UN Climate Change Conference

The 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, from 31 October to 12 November 2021.

What is the Conference of the Parties?

The Conference of the Parties is an annual United Nations summit on Climate Change with the objective of achieving the aims set out in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Treaty, signed by 154 signatories at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

The Treaty committed signatories’ governments to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of “preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system” or, in other words preventing “dangerous” human interference with Earth’s climate.

The first summit was held in Berlin in 1995, and although a relatively fringe issue back then climate change is now a global priority.

The Significance of COP26

In 2015, at COP21 in Paris, world leaders committed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and make a commitment to aim for 1.5 degrees, signing an agreement now commonly referred to as the Paris Agreement.

Each country committed to bringing-forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions and it was agreed that these plans would be updated every five years.     

Six years on at the 26th summit in Glasgow, the UK will bring the Parties together to update their plans and agree how to collectively tackle the global climate crisis over the next 30 years.

Goals of COP26

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach by accelerating the phase-out of coal, curtailing deforestation, speeding-up the transition to electric vehicles, and encouraging investment in renewables.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats by protecting and restoring ecosystems and building defences and resilient infrastructure to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and lives.

3. To deliver on the above goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020 to support developing countries.

4. Work together to finalise the Paris Rulebook and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis.

UK Involvement in COP26

The UK  has held the Presidency of COP since 2020 and will host COP26, bringing together more than 190 world leaders along with negotiators, government representatives, businesses,climate experts, and young people.

As a Devolved Administration, Northern Ireland comes under the wider UK umbrella for COP26 with the UK being the Party to the COP. Climate negotiations and global campaign activity are being led by the UK Government on a national level.

Why you should care about climate change and what happens at COP26

If we continue as we are, global temperatures will continue to rise, bringing even more catastrophic flooding, bush fires, changes in the seasonality of crop production, loss of glaciers, drought, extreme weather, increased climate migration, and destruction of species.

In the UK the Met Office predicts that even if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions sea levels will continue to rise beyond 2100 causing increased flooding, particularly in coastal areas.  Winters will be warmer but wetter, and summers will be warmer and drier.  Droughts may increase, and production of some current crops may become more difficult.

Hasn’t Climate Change Always Happened Throughout History?

But hasn’t climate change always happened throughout history you may ask.  Yes it has, but Earth’s climate record, preserved in things like tree rings, ice cores, and coral reefs, shows that the global average temperature is stable over long periods of time.  We have seen a rapid acceleration in temperature increase since the industrial revolution.

COP26 will play a crucial role in addressing the challenges we face from global climate change, and the decision taken will affect us all going forward.

What impact will COP26 have on you

The targets set at COP26 and the actions necessary to ensure that these targets are met will have a profound effect on the way we live our lives in the years to come.

Accelerating the transition away from coal to renewable energy will present us with opportunities to grow the clean energy sector.  Becoming more energy efficient in our homes and workplaces will take on much greater importance.

Protecting ecosystems, restoring forests, and moving to a more sustainable means of food production and land use will change the way we interact with nature.

Delivering the UK Government commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050 will require governments, business, and civil society to work together to transform the way we live our lives.  From how we source power, to methods of production, agriculture, transportation, to how we develop future infrastructure, we all must work together collaboratively to tackle the challenges caused by climate change. 

Learn more about COP26

COP26 – Learn more about the conference and how you can get involved.

COP26 Explained – all you need to know about COP26.

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