For 2 weeks, 197 countries have been attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in an effort to find solutions to the globe’s biggest climate concerns. However, despite being scheduled to end on Friday 12th November, the conference has continued on for another day as key issues remain unsolved. So, what is COP26?
What is COP26?
For almost thirty years, the United Nations has been encouraging nations to come together at climate summits (also known as ‘Conference of the Parties’ or ‘COP’) in a bid to tackle the world’s environmental problems. In recent years, this topic has become an increasingly urgent priority.
In the last COP in Paris (COP21), every nation in attendance agreed to collectively aim to maintain global warming to under 2 degrees (with the ambition to, best case scenario, aim for 1.5 degrees). Additionally, all countries committed to help adapt to the climate change impacts, and set money aside to assist in bringing these agreements to fruition. This is now known as the Paris Agreement.
Most significantly, under the Paris Agreement, nations decided upon implementing plans to effectively hold themselves accountable for reducing their emissions; referred to as NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions).
Given the enthusiastic and historic outcome of COP21, there were high expectations in the lead up to COP26. Fittingly, Alok Sharma, President of COP26, has called this year’s summit a “moment of truth”.
There are four main objectives at COP26:
- Securing global net zero by mid-century. This will require nations to; eliminate coal, reduce deforestation, switch to electric vehicles, and nurture investments in renewables.
- Protecting communities and natural habitats by preserving and restoring ecosystems, and improving infrastructure and agriculture to avoid the loss of communities.
- Organising finances. Developed countries have been expected to pool $100bn to aid developing nations adapt to climate change. This was agreed to at the Copenhagen COP15 in 2009.
- Working together to deliver.
In a conference that was extended by 24 hours, Alok Sharma urged nations to agree to a climate agreement.
“You all know that the world is willing us on to be bold – to be ambitious … So much rests on the decisions we collectively take today,”Alok Sharma, COP26 President
Several countries including India, Iran, South Africa, and China objected to the draft agreement’s wording surrounding ending fossil fuels; with India’s environmental minister asking how developing nations were expected to phase out fossil fuels whilst simultaneously aiming to eradicate poverty.
However, on Saturday evening, nations agreed to the Glasgow Climate Pact. The agreement sees countries committing to cut more emissions, pledge more money to developing nations, and plan to reduce coal. Unfortunately, these promises don’t seem to extend to limiting a 1.5C temperature rise.
Despite initial opposition over “phasing out” fossil fuels and coal, countries eventually agreed on “phasing down”. And although this weakening of language has disappointed some, experts have noted that this momentous agreement marks the first time a UN agreement has explicitly mentioned reducing coal.
Alok Sharma’s words at an informal plenary late Friday night foreshadowed the atmosphere of COP26’s final day, stating:
“This is our collective moment in history, this is our chance to forge a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous world, and this is our time to deliver on the high ambition set by our leaders at the start of the summit, we must rise to the occasion.”Alok Sharma, COP26 President