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Convening for a greener future - COP26 and its relevance

By Ishika Dangayach on Oct 29, 2021 | 03:39 AM IST



l  United Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties (COPs), brings together 197 parties from each nation who have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

l  The UNFCCC’s COP26 will now formally begin on October 31, 2021, at Glasgow, Scotland


Storms, floods, and wildfires are becoming more severe all around the planet. Tens of millions of people are impacted by air pollution, and unpredictable weather has done enormous damage to homes and livelihoods. While the effects of climate change are catastrophic, breakthroughs in addressing it are resulting in better air, good jobs, natural restoration, and economic prosperity.

Despite the multitudinous opportunities, we are not responding quickly enough. In response to that, this year, the United Nations will organize a national conference wherein the world leaders will join forces to examine climate change concerns and measures to prevent this crisis. 


What is COP26? 


The United Climate Change Conference has been held every year for the past three decades. Also commonly known as COPs which stands for Conference of the parties. These yearly meetings bring together a total of 197 parties from each nation who have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty that addresses climate change.


The 2021 gathering will be the 26th annual summit, thus the name COP26. This 26th COP was supposed to be held last year; however, it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


When is COP26?


The UNFCCC’s COP26 was initially slated to take place from November 9 to November 19, 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, The COP Bureau agreed on May 28, 2020, that it will be held from November 1 to 12, 2021. After all the deliberations, the conference will now formally begin on October 31, 2021. 

Where is COP26 hosted? 


This year’s meeting is being held in the United Kingdom for the first time. Glasgow, Scotland will host the event. This UN-managed facility is located in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in the city's west end wherein the event is divided into two zones: the blue and green zone. 


Who is attending COP26?

This year representatives from almost 190 nations including world leaders, prominent scientists, and environmental campaigners as well as representatives of the press and observer organizations, are anticipated to participate.


More than 100 international leaders have already confirmed their participation, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Among those who will not be present are China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro 


What is the agenda of COP26?


According to the UNFCCC, COP26 will focus on the following four objectives:


1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach:

Countries are being urged to adopt strong 2030 emissions reduction targets aimed at attaining net-zero emissions by 2050. To meet these lofty ambitions, governments will need to expedite the phase-out of coal, boost investment in renewables, reduce deforestation, and accelerate the transition to electric cars.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats:

At COP26, countries must collaborate to allow and encourage nations affected by climate change to preserve and restore ecosystems, create defenses, install warning systems, and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avert the loss of homes, livelihoods, and lives.

3. Mobilise finance:

To achieve our first two objectives, wealthy nations must keep their pledge to raise at least $100 billion in climate funding each year. With the help of International financial institutions, nations must work together to mobilize trillions of dollars in private and public sector financing to achieve global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver

This is the most important agenda that only by working together will we be able to meet the problems of climate change. The Paris Rulebook must be finalized in COP26 and to meet our climate targets more quickly, all the governments, industries, and civil society across the globe must join forces. 


Why is COP26 important? 

This year's COP is the most important climate summit since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. Countries are also likely to enhance their climate aspirations during the summit and set strict criteria for implementing them.


Moreover, it is the first meeting after the coronavirus pandemic shook the world and prompted individuals and governments to pay better attention to the environment and climate change. 


COP26 is seen as the follow-up to COP21 when the Paris agreement was signed. It is viewed as the meeting to address both what has and hasn't been accomplished since 2015. 


It's also the first COP to be held after the United States left then re-joined the Paris Agreement, thus the country’s contribution to the meeting will get attention. 


Why is 1.5 degree important? 

There would be widespread and catastrophic consequences for people and ecosystems if the world’s temperature increased by two degrees Celsius. A third of the world's population would be subjected to extreme heat regularly, causing health problems and increasing heat-related deaths.


Almost all warm-water coral reefs would be lost, and the Arctic

Sea ice would melt completely at least once per decade, wreaking havoc on the species and communities who rely on it. 


The consequences would be considerable, but less severe, at 1.5°C. There would be fewer hazards of food and water scarcity, fewer threats to economic progress, and fewer species in danger of extinction. Human health risks from air pollution, sickness, malnutrition, and exposure to high heat

would also be reduced.


That is why every fraction of a degree of warming is significant, and why we need to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius



Why attaining net-zero is important and how can we do it? 

To keep within 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must nearly eliminate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, chopping down forests, and some industrial activities by mid of century. 


As a result, wealthy nations must swiftly phase out coal power, and all governments must commit to neither building nor funding new coal-fired power plants anywhere in the globe.


At the same time, nations must collaborate to give better support to developing nations in their efforts to provide clean energy to their populations.


Forests play an important role in eliminating carbon from the atmosphere. Protecting them is important if we want to fulfill our climate targets. Finally, we must clean our air and cut carbon emissions by driving zero-emission vehicles, vans, and trucks.


What happens at COP? 


The meeting is divided into two zones: blue zone and green zone. 


The Blue Zone is for persons who have registered with the United Nations organization in charge of coordinating the worldwide response to the threat of climate change. 


Delegates from many nations gather in the Blue Zone for both official negotiations and informal chats. They may also attend meetings with other delegations to clarify their positions and interests to achieve an agreement or break a negotiation impasse.


The Green Zone is open to the public which consists of a variety of events to attend, including workshops, art exhibitions, and installations, as well as talks, technological demos, and musical performances.


What is Paris Agreement? 


The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 during COP21. For the first time, practically every nation in the world made a legally enforceable pledge to cut emissions.


It was 'top down' in the sense that every country – no matter how big or small – committed to reducing carbon emissions to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. 


The agreement also established ambitious targets for adaptation and financing, recognizing that many people throughout the world are

already feeling the effects of climate change and that assistance - financial,

technical, and capacity development - will be required. 


Isn't this going to be a huge Covid spreader?


The COP was initially scheduled for November 2020, but it was postponed in May of last year due to the pandemic.


The decision was made to host the event in person rather than virtually due to the urgent need for governments to enhance their ambition on carbon reduction, as well as the difficulties of achieving progress without individuals meeting face-to-face.


The UK government has offered vaccines to delegates before the talks, but those from red list countries will still be quarantined. The UK government will cover the fees for those countries who cannot otherwise afford to come.


What other COPs are happening in 2021? 


The UNFCCC is unique in that it is one of three treaties that resulted from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


This meeting, known at the time as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, witnessed the creation of three environmental conventions:

· The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

· The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

· The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)


These three conferences are known together as the Rio Conventions, and they all attempt to conserve the Earth and its carefully balanced ecosystems.


By coincidence, all three Rio Conventions will convene in 2021. The CBD COP15 takes place in October, followed by the COP26 in November and the UNCCD COP15 at the end of the year. 

With inputs from UKCOP26, Euronews & TheGuardian

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