Six years ago, after days of careful negotiations, world leaders managed to reach an agreement on climate change. The result was the Paris Agreement, which was agreed at the COP21 summit in Paris.
The landmark agreement, described by the United Nations as a legally binding international treaty on climate change, aims to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels”. 2 degrees Celsius is approximately 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, years later, politicians are preparing – if the pandemic allows – to meet again for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
CNBC’s Sustainable Future provides an overview of the talks below.
From today’s perspective, COP26 will be hosted by Great Britain and will be held in the Scottish city of Glasgow between November 1st and 12th, 2021. It was originally scheduled to take place in November 2020, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
COP stands for Conference of the Parties – in other words, countries – while the number 26 refers to the fact that it will be the 26th summit. The European Union, like its 27 member states, is an independent “contracting party” to the Paris Agreement.
The UK government says the talks at COP26 “will bring together heads of state, climate experts and activists to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change.”
If all goes according to plan, thousands of people are expected to attend the event in Glasgow.
Italy has been named “Co-Host” of COP26. A three-day “Pre-COP” session will take place in Milan at the end of September, and between 35 and 40 countries are expected to attend.
Is everything present and correct?
Participants in COP25, which took place in Spain in late 2019, included the US, China, India and the European Union. It is to be hoped that all active vocal participants will be in Glasgow for the talks.
In the run-up to this year’s event, China will pay close attention, not least because it is an industrial and economic powerhouse and the largest carbon emitter in the world.
To illustrate the challenges of coordinating key international summits, China did not attend a recent UK climate change meeting prior to COP26.
The BBC reported that even though they were invited, China was not involved in the meeting, which the EU, US, India and others attended.
However, China attended the IEA-COP26 Net Zero Summit, which took place on the same day.
Ambition is the catchphrase
The UK official website for COP26 elaborated on the objectives of the main summit and stated that it would “bring parties together to accelerate action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”.
There’s a lot going on at COP26. “We know the international community as well as major and historic emitters must come up with extremely ambitious plans to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 ° C,” said Jake Woodier, COP26 campaign manager at The Climate Coalition, a group focused focus on combating climate change, CNBC said via email.
“The UK, as … host, needs to play an active role in ensuring this through climate diplomacy, while also setting an example for the world by implementing ambitious and visionary green policies at home.”
Helen Clarkson, CEO of Climate Group, an international not-for-profit organization, told CNBC that COP26 was “a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.”
“As the host of the talks, the UK has a responsibility to lead from the front and press governments to set net-zero targets that are in line with the Paris Agreement and limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius “, added her.
“An overshoot would be a catastrophe for people and the planet that must be avoided at all costs.”
A big challenge
Much of the discussions in Glasgow will focus on nationally determined contributions or NDCs. In simple terms, NDCs refer to the goals of individual countries to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
All countries that are part of the Paris Agreement should update their NDCs every five years. This is important as the targets need to be increased regularly to meet the overall goal of the agreement to limit global warming.
In theory, these updates should have been submitted by the end of 2020. In practice, this did not happen for a variety of reasons, including a disruption related to Covid-19.
A UN report released in February showed that as of December 31 last year, only 75 parties to the Paris Agreement had updated their NDCs. This is only 40% of the total and together only accounts for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The interim report was described by UN Secretary General António Guterres as a “red warning for our planet”.
“It shows that governments are nowhere near the ambitions needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he added.
Elsewhere, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN climate change said the report shows that the current goals are “far from getting us on a path that will achieve our Paris Agreement goals”. An updated version of this report will be published in the run-up to COP26.
Greta Thunberg and other stumbling blocks
Fear of new NDCs – or the lack of NDCs – is one of several stumbling blocks that the summit has already seen.
Although Sky News has already been postponed once, Sky News reported in late March that the summit could be postponed a second time because of the pandemic.
Adolescent activist Greta Thunberg – an extremely influential figure in the climate change movement – recently questioned her participation.
In view of all of the points mentioned above, what would have to be achieved and agreed at COP26 in order for this to be considered a success?
“Success would look like tough goals that embody a high level of ambition and ensure that warming is kept below 1.5 ° C,” said Woodier of the Climate Coalition.
“In addition, it is imperative that richer nations commit to fair financial contributions to ensure poorer nations receive full support as they transform their economies.”
Prince William weighs
COP26 is an opportunity for high-level discussions on a wide range of environmental issues.
The UK says its COP26 presidency will focus on five things: finance, clean roads, adaptation and resilience, energy transition and nature. The latter has some high profile proponents, including Prince William.
At last week’s virtual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, the Duke of Cambridge said protecting and restoring nature was “critical to the success of COP26 in Glasgow later this year and to a better, greener and more prosperous future.” . ” we all want to see. ”
“We cannot sustainably recover from coronavirus, eradicate global poverty, make net emissions, or adapt to climate change without investing in nature,” he added.
The COP26, said William, is a “decisive step on the way to put nature at the center of our fight against climate change”.
“The decisions that leaders make in Glasgow will reflect generations in the years to come. Let’s count it.”