COP, which stands for “Conference of the Parties”, is the United Nation’s annual climate conference. It gathers global experts and leaders to discuss and agree on a common approach to fighting the disastrous effect of climate change.
The very first COP meeting was in Berlin in 1996. This year will mark the 26th edition of the event. The conference is taking place in Glasgow between October 31 and November 12.
Many experts, however, believe that COP26 will be different – a game-changer for the future of our planet. But why?
COP26: Why So Important?
To answer this question, let’s delve into the purpose of the previous COP events. Usually, the meetings serve to assess the steps countries have made to mitigate the negative impact of climate change. Every five years, however, representatives of more than 190 countries gather to make major environmental decisions on both national and global levels. This was the case six years ago, at COP21, when the Paris Agreement was adopted. The purpose of this legally binding international treaty is to set a limit to global warming to well below 2°C by the end of the century and preferably to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels.
The COP conference in 2020 was rescheduled due to Covid-19. This means that COP26 will be the first decision-making event since the establishment of the Paris Agreement. A total of 197 Parties are involved, implying that there will be representatives of almost every country in the world.
COP26: What to expect?
The four main goals of COP26 include:
- Mitigation – to secure global net zero by 2050 and keep 1.5°C within reach,
- Adaptation – to adapt to protect communities and natural habitats,
- Finance – to mobilise finance,
- Collaboration – to work together to deliver.
These may sound a bit vague, so let’s look at them in detail.
The world is failing to limit global warming to 1.5°C and with this pace, global warming will be above 3°C by the beginning of the next century as compared to pre-industrial levels. According to COP26’s agenda, “the world needs to halve emissions over the next decade and reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century if we are to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.”
With the adoption of the Paris Agreement, each country agreed to report on its emission reduction targets every five years. Therefore, countries have been asked to share their progression over time and update their 2030 targets.
As a result of climate change, over the past five decades, the number of disasters has increased by a factor of five. The most vulnerable societies, however, have done the least to cause this. COP26 is addressing the fact that they need help in order to protect their lives and livelihoods. The major aims will include investment in infrastructure to prevent disasters like floodings or wildfires as well as restoration and protection of natural habitats. All countries need to produce an Adaptation Communication, which is a summary of their current and future actions in relation to the changing climate and the challenges it creates.
The agenda of COP26 discusses two types of finance significant for ensuring the continuation of the fight against climate change:
- public finance, important for the development of infrastructure necessary for the transition to a greener and more climate-resilient economy, and
- private finance to fund technology and innovation in this direction.
The ones that need the most help are the developing countries. At the same time, the developed countries are expected every year to mobilise USD 100 billion to support the developing countries. According to OECD data, the climate funds collected in 2019 were about USD 79.6 billion.
This goal combines the first three. Let’s not forget that the main goal of COP is for global experts and leaders to work together and agree on a set of actions in order to ensure the moving to a resilient, net zero global economy.
During COP26, the representatives of each country are expected to finalise the Paris Rulebook, which includes the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement. The three MUSTs that COP26’s Collaboration agenda include:
- to find solutions so that carbon markets can enable greater ambition in mitigation and adaptation actions,
- to resolve the issues around transparent reporting to build confidence in the system and support all countries to meet their commitments,
- to broker an agreement that drives ambition from governments over the coming years to keep 1.5°C alive.
What will be the success of COP26 is still unknown but heavily dependent on the say of global leaders and climate experts.