COP 26; So What is it Exactly?


Article by Dr. Julian Harrop

I was asked the other day what COP26 actually stood for by a some friends,  who are both pretty erudite and informed, I have to admit that surprised me, but they are certainly not alone. Billions of text messages fly through the air continually, loaded with LOL’s, ROFL’s, LMK’s, BTW’s and STFU’s, we even use them in business such as EOD , ASAP and my favourite LMGTFY (Let me Google that for you), so it seems surprising that many do not know what COP 26 stands for, as it is the title for what many would argue is to be the most important conference in the world.

This made me wonder exactly how much is generally known about it other than its association with Climate Change. How is your general awareness of what is going to happen? To explain in detail will take as long as the COP itself, but here is a brisk precis:- 

The COP (Conference of the Parties) is a United Nations initiative. The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995. It started when Climate change was something of a fringe concern, and now according to the United Nations it is a global priority

COP 26 starts in Glasgow today, the city will host World leaders, tens of thousands of negotiators and commercial sector representation amongst many other interested parties, all in all twelve days of very intense talks. 

It is COP 26 because it is the 26th such event. Arguably the last notable COP that most can cite was Paris (2015) because a number of things occurred, such as : It led to a new  international climate agreement applicable to all countries aiming to  keep global warming  between at 1.5- 2oc, momentous because every country agreed to work together.

The USA one of the world’s three biggest green-house gas emitters pulled out of the Paris agreement six months after Trump took office and President Biden started the process to re-join it on his first day in office on 20th January 2021.

The engine of the COP26 will be the negotiations which will involve the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCC came into being on March 21st 1994 and bearing in mind there are listed 195 countries in the world the membership is pretty universal. You may hear the term “Parties to the Convention” over the next 2 weeks, these are the countries that have ratified the convention.

The UNFCCC’s ultimate aim? According to the UN, it is to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. UNFCCC link is:

UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE (unfccc.int)

Also, according to the UN the aims of the negotiations will be:

1) To reduce Green House Gas emissions

2) Strengthen adaptation and resilience  to climate impacts, and

3) Scale up finance and support.  In so doing, the UN hopes nature will be restored and protected, whilst empowering inclusive action.

There have been criticisms that the commitments from the COP 21 did not get anywhere near limiting global warming to 1.5oc degrees, and countries are going to have to redouble efforts and intentions to keep the 1.5oc degree dream alive.

There were reports on this morning’s news that Glasgow is about to be flooded by protesters, including Greta Thunberg, although on the face of it they and the general intentions behind COP26 would broadly speaking seem to be aligned. In any event more than any other COP that I have followed there is a greater sense of urgency tied into COP 26 than any COP before it. 

A question I was asked by my friends was “Is this a tick box exercise?”. There may be elements of that, fabricated promises and greenwashing, we shall see.  All eyes however, have to be on the worlds big three emitters China the EU (which for arguments sake includes the UK) and the United States.  These three parties produce 41.5% of total global emissions whilst the bottom 100 countries account for 3.6%, collectively according to the World Resources Institute, the top 10 emitters account for 66% of global green House Gas emissions.  So what happens with them, is going to have the most significant effects.

However, my feel is that with the very obvious tangible shift in global weather patterns, all governments and their voters are accepting that there is a climate emergency, so perhaps real tangible initiatives may start to appear, possibly in stick form. 

What we can probably be pretty confident in is that these decisions will affect our lives, perhaps in significant ways such as how we travel, what we eat and the energy we use.

We will post summaries of the key points over the COP 26 summit as they appear. It should be interesting and let’s hope “world changing”.

To find out more information:

UN website: HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

ROSE SUSTAINABILITY aims to promote the shift of Caithness and North Sutherland’s economy to one where sustainability is prioritised.

©2020 Rose Sustainability

Contact us

E: info@rose-sustainability.co.uk

Website by Navertech