A pivotal moment in the fight against climate change.
In November, the UK, together with our partners Italy, will host an event many believe to be the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control.
COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference
For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority.
This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK as President, COP26 takes place in Glasgow.
In the run up to COP26 the UK is working with every nation to reach agreement on how to tackle climate change. More than 190 world leaders will arrive in Scotland. Joining them will be tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens for twelve days of talks.
Not only is it a huge task but it is also not just yet another international summit. Most experts believe COP26 has a unique urgency.
To understand why, it’s necessary to look back to another COP.
The importance of the Paris Agreement
COP21 took place in Paris in 2015.
For the first time ever, something momentous happened: every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims.
The Paris Agreement was born. The commitment to aim for 1.5 degrees is important because every fraction of a degree of warming will result in the loss of many more lives lost and livelihoods damaged.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’.
They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.
Glasgow is the moment for countries to update their plans
The run up to this year’s summit in Glasgow is the moment (delayed by a year due to the pandemic) when countries update their plans for reducing emissions.
But that’s not all. The commitments laid out in Paris did not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, and the window for achieving this is closing.
The decade out to 2030 will be crucial.
So as momentous as Paris was, countries must go much further than they did even at that historic summit in order to keep the hope of holding temperature rises to 1.5 alive. COP26 needs to be decisive.
International climate summits are complex.
Here at the UK COP26 team we want to make it as easy as possible for you to understand what COP26 is and what the UK team is working to achieve.
These are a few helpful sources of information to get you started:
- Our goals for COP26
- The negotiations process
- What the UK is doing to tackle climate change
- COP26 Explained (PDF)