Photo credit: ukcop26.org
JULY 22, 2021
We’re not talking about police officers here. COP stands for ‘Conference Of the Parties’ – i.e. a meeting involving lots of different people. The meeting is an annual event and the people in question are Government officials, representatives from global organisations, climate experts, public speakers, business leaders and negotiators from around the world. They all have expertise on, responsibility for or interest in the environment.
This year is the 26th ever COP, so it’s called – you guessed it – COP26.
A COP event usually lasts for several days. The attending delegates give speeches, discuss progress on climate action and agree on climate initiatives for moving forward.
COP aims to keep the world on track for meeting the goals set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and the Paris Agreements (2015). Both of these environmental treaties state that in order to avoid devastating climate change, we must reduce the amount of harmful warming gases we put into the atmosphere.
We can’t solve climate change individually. In order to build a truly sustainable future, global cooperation is essential. COP26 aims to ensure that the voices of all nations are heard and that the pathway to a low-carbon world is fair and just.
For example, more industrialised nations such as Europe and America are historically responsible for a much larger share of global emissions. Less industrialised nations – many of which are located in the Global South – have contributed comparatively little to the problem but are suffering the most severe consequences. In 2009, rich countries pledged to work towards raising $100bn each year by 2020 to help less developed countries tackle climate change.
The COP conferences have been held since the mid-1990s. Almost 30 years ago, climate change was not considered a mainstream issue. It is now a global priority.
In terms of environmental progress, the world is moving in the right direction – over 70% of the world economy is now covered by Net Zero targets. This means many regions and companies are working towards emitting zero harmful emissions overall, which involves reducing the production of harmful gases and offsetting any that remain.
At COP21 in 2015, for the first time ever, almost every country in the world agreed to work together to limit global warming. Each nation set out their commitments for reducing emissions and their plans for achieving these reductions.
However, we still have a way to go. It’s now 6 years later. Emissions are still rising and the world is still warming. This year’s COP could be a significant turning point as nations have to present their updated strategies for meeting climate commitments.
With the current decade being heralded as our final chance to avoid devastating climate change, and COP26 having already been delayed a year due to Covid, there is a particular urgency about November’s meeting. Will world leaders finally keep their promises to fight climate change?
COP26 will take place in November 2021 in Glasgow. Over 190 world leaders are expected to arrive in Scotland for 12 days of talks. The focus will be on building back better out of the Covid crisis, recovering in a way that supports a more sustainable future.
Alok Sharma (pictured), the COP President-Designate, said “we can deliver green recoveries across the glove that bring in good jobs, trillions in investment and ground-breaking new technology. And we must.”
Hosting COP26 provides the UK with a fantastic opportunity to present itself as a global leader on climate action. The UK is making good progress towards environmental targets – for example, we have almost phased out coal power and we have banned the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. However, many people think the Government could be doing more to support industries such as clean energy.
We should be using our unique position as President of the world’s largest climate conference in arguably its most pivotal year to date, to show the world the level of climate commitment that is necessary and possible.