• Eirini Sampson

On our way to COP26: what is COP26, anyway?

With COP26 taking place in less than two weeks (31 Oct to 12 Nov 2021), it is important to get on with 1) what COP26 even is, and 2) what a successful summit would look like.

COP26 stands for Conference of the Parties, and it is an annual summit of the nations who signed the UN Agreement on Climate Change.

Many countries have signed and are legally bound (upon national integration of this) by the Paris Agreement in 2015. Signatories to this committed to limiting global heating to below 2C and limiting it at 1.5C [context: so far, global temperatures have risen by 1.2C]. The Agreement asks countries to reconvene on the negotiating table every 5 years with new targets to meet its goals.

To reach the Agreement goals, countries must cut their emissions by 7% each year, but a recent report found that at our current rate, we will only have slashed our emissions by 40% by 2050 (the year we should be reaching net-zero to prevent the rising temperatures from reaching a tipping point).

COP26 is focusing on staying at 1.5C through a variety of different sectors: climate finance, phasing out coal, reducing methane emissions and nature based solutions such as restoring biodiversity. As it currently stands, current commitments have set us on a path for a 2.7C temperature rise (as opposed to 1.5C). This means that radical change is needed to reduce our emissions and for net-zero to be achieved by 2050.