- What does COP stand for?
COP stands for Conference of the Parties. No, despite people making Glasgow, we don’t mean that kind of party. In this case, the parties are the countries that have signed up to a United Nations treaty on climate change, that seeks to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the earth’s climate system.
- How often does the COP take place?
The COP is an annual international summit that takes place in different cities each year, although like so many other things it did not take place in 2020, because of the global pandemic. The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995 and the Glasgow COP, scheduled for 1st to 12th November is the 26th.
- So why does everyone keep talking about Paris?
As well as being the most romantic city on the planet (in the views of the author), Paris was home to COP21 in 2015. Now the parties that year were obviously not dispatched by Cupid and hammered out an agreement to keep global temperature increases well below 2°C and if possible, below 1.5°C. To achieve this, each country present agreed to reduce its future emissions of greenhouse gases. As an example, the UK agreed to reduce its emissions to 53% of 1990 levels by 2030.
- What makes a good COP, not a bad COP?
Time to talk about Paris again and its “landmark agreement” between 195 countries. As if the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower weren’t landmarks enough!
If Paris is the good COP, then the bad COP must surely and sadly be the last one, COP 25, for reasons both plentiful and painful. Initially due to be hosted in Brazil, then Chile, COP 25 was shifted to Spain at the last minute due to political and social unrest. The majority of the developed nations failed to deliver any meaningful actions or commitments or even to acknowledge the increasingly frightening science about the speed of climate change and growing evidence of its consequences. Worst of all, former President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement.
- What is the significance of COP26?
There are a number of factors that make COP26 particularly significant. Firstly, it’s the fifth COP since Paris, and the Paris Agreement requires its signatories to ramp up their commitments on its fifth anniversary.
Following the failure of COP25, progress is an ever more urgent requirement. Tanya Steele the CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, said “All eyes will now be on COP26 in Glasgow to restore much-needed confidence in this process and deliver the action necessary to restore a safe climate and safeguard humanity’s future.
COP26 is also important because we have had to wait two years for it due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and in the words of Sir David Attenborough, the one thing we don’t have in the battle against climate change is time.
The COPs give equal weight to the voices of poorer countries, especially important when these countries have a whole new set of problems due to COVID.
- What’s on the agenda in Glasgow?
First and foremost, the conference is seeking commitments from the countries attending to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and to make significant reductions by 2030. Net-zero has become a widely used term which means achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere.
There are also some complicated decisions to be made concerning how to measure and monitor progress towards emissions reduction targets. It is highly important to ensure transparency and consistency.
We also need to adapt to the harmful and probably irreversible climate change that has already taken place. Successful adaptation depends on the developed nations providing funds to help poorer countries to adapt to drought, floods, rising sea levels, pollution and other consequences. This is another challenge for COP26.
In the lead-up to the conference, the UK has been focussed on the opportunities potentially arising out of a transition to a net-zero economy. These can result from the shift to renewable energy, development of new technologies and engagement of the financial system to find solutions and funding.
- Who will be at COP26?
A lot of people, if the pandemic allows it, 30,000 in fact. This would make COP26 the biggest conference ever to be held in the UK. As well as government leaders, attendees will include the companies who are the main culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the activists who campaign most strongly against them. Like many Glasgow mass gatherings, it’s going to be lively. Normally known for great sporting and music events, the pandemic has turned Glasgow into a giant snoozing away on the banks of the River Clyde, but we hope it will really come back to life in November.
- Can you attend COP26?
Every COP has a closed ‘blue zone’ where negotiations take place and country ‘pavilions’ are situated, as well as a ‘green zone’ that is open to charities, organisations, businesses, community groups and others. You do however still have to go through a formal process and often pay to set up stalls or events here.
Beyond these official zones, there is usually a huge amount of other activity including alternative spaces, side events, marches and protests, and arts installations. If you are coming, let us know, we’ll see you there. We would particularly recommend checking out After The Pandemic – Rethink. Reimagine. Redesign.
- Are we optimistic about COP26?
That old saying that too many cooks can spoil the broth seems to plague the COP gatherings. Climate change always seems to be tomorrow’s problem, someone else’s problem or a problem that can’t be fixed without being unpopular. We do have a feeling that this time the number of voices demanding urgent action, from school children to scientists, from voters to VIPs, will wield influence on the leaders of many nations. We just hope any actions agreed are sincere and brave long-term changes that demonstrate a real commitment to a net-zero world.
We would be more optimistic though if there were some women appointed to the COP26 leadership team. We feel very strongly about this issue. You can find out more at She Changes Climate
- What might happen if COP26 doesn’t deliver?
If countries don’t increase and accelerate their emissions reductions, we could breach the 1.5C increase in global temperatures by 2030 and reach a 3C increase by 2100. Whilst many counties, such as China, the UK, the EU and Japan have recently set targets to attain net-zero by the middle of the century, these are still just ambitions.
A 3C rise potentially means rainforests becoming desert, coral reefs perishing, artic sea ice melting and harvests failing. Flooding would wreak havoc with our homes, jobs and food supply and could trigger conflict and unrest.
This is why COP26 gives Glasgow, Scotland’s “dear green place”, a chance to save the world.
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