In November, the UK will host an event many believe to be the world’s best “last chance” to get runaway climate change under control – the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
These global climate summits – called COPs (‘Conference of the Parties’) – have been organised for nearly three decades. Held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, this year will mark the 26th annual summit, giving the event the name COP26.
The Glasgow event will be crucial, as it is set to be the moment (delayed by a year due to the pandemic) when countries update their plans for reducing emissions as part of the Paris Agreement (signed during COP21 in Paris in 2015). The agreement outlined how every country would work together to limit global warming to well below 2°C – and aim for 1.5°C, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims.
The commitments laid out in Paris, however, did not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and the window for achieving this is now closing.
Therefore, the main goal set for Glasgow’s COP26 is to secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5°C within reach. Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with these two goals.
More than 50 ministers and high-level representatives – including the UN Deputy Secretary General – met in late July to discuss their expectations for COP26.
During the talks, the delegates emphasised the urgent need to reduce emissions to keep 1.5°C within reach, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change as made clear by the best available science. They highlighted that, collectively, not enough is currently being done.
Many ministers called for all countries to submit nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Strategies (LTS) that are aligned with 1.5°C pathways ahead of COP26. A number of ministers highlighted the importance of G20 leadership in this respect, given the group’s responsibility for more than 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
They welcomed the commitment of the G20 to bring forward NDCs before COP26 and called for all countries to increase ambition accordingly.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Securing a brighter future for our children and future generations requires countries to take urgent action at home and abroad to turn the tide on climate change.
“It is with ambition, courage and collaboration as we approach the crucial COP26 summit in the UK that we can seize this moment together, so we can recover cleaner, rebuild greener and restore our planet.”