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COP26 schedule: what is going to happen at the Glasgow climate change summit - and timetable of events

World leaders and their delegations are set to be in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November

The COP26 climate change summit is taking place in Glasgow between Sunday 31 October and Friday 12 November.

Dubbed as “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control” by the UK Government, those attending the summit will be under pressure to find solutions to the climate crisis.

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But what exactly will politicians and business leaders be doing during the conference - and which bits can the general public attend?

What will happen at COP26?

COP26 will essentially encompass three main elements:

  1. Negotiations between world leaders 
  2. A conference of politicians, business leaders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  3. A series of events that will be open to the general public.

The first two elements are set to take place around Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus, with the third part taking place on the other side of the River Clyde at the Glasgow Science Centre.

Preparations are underway in Glasgow ahead of the COP26 climate change summit (image: AFP/Getty Images)

COP26 world leaders summit

The UK Government has said it will push countries to agree to “comprehensive, ambitious and balanced” measures to tackle climate change.

At the previous major summit in Paris in 2015, 196 nation states signed up to a goal of limiting global warming to “well below” two degrees celsius this century, with an ultimate aim of keeping it below 1.5 degrees celsius.

But the Government said it wants to accelerate this action even further.

Speaking in Paris on Tuesday 12 October, COP26 president Alok Sharma urged world leaders to agree to significantly reduce emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050, at the summit.

Mr Sharma called for concrete action to deliver on these plans, for example, agreements on reducing coal usage, and for wealthy nations to put more money and support towards tackling the climate crisis.

“COP26 is not a photo op or a talking shop. It must be the forum where we put the world on track to deliver on climate. And that is down to leaders,” Mr Sharma said.

“Responsibility rests with each and every country. And we must all play our part. Because on climate, the world will succeed, or fail as one.”

His words came after a report published in August by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found the targets of the Paris Climate Treaty were unlikely to be met.

Meanwhile, the world has been rocked by a series of extreme weather events this year, including: heatwaves and drought across North America, severe flash flooding in Germany and London as well as forest fires in Europe.

Climate change has caused extreme weather events in 2021, such as the fatal flooding seen in Germany in July (image: Getty Images)

Negotiations and events timetable for COP26

Around 120 world leaders, their teams of negotiators and other delegates face a gruelling two weeks of negotiations.

Apart from the world leaders summit and a rest day, each day will explore different themes that will be negotiated on.

Events will be held in tandem with these talks, with UK Government Ministers set to appear at many of them.

For example, the finance-focused day after the world leaders summit will see the Chancellor Rishi Sunak reveal how Government spending is being made available to tackle climate change - an event green groups will pay particular attention to after Mr Sunak’s climate-light Autumn Budget on Wednesday 27 October.

Here is how each day will pan out:

  • Sunday 31 October: Opening of the negotiations
  • Monday 1 November: World leaders summit day one (during this section of the negotiations, world leaders will be encouraged to put forward their ambitions and plans of action for securing net zero emissions globally and keeping the 1.5 degrees celsius Paris target in reach)
  • Tuesday 2 November: World leaders summit day two
  • Wednesday 3 November: Negotiators will look at ways of mobilising public and private finance to tackle the climate crisis
  • Thursday 4 November: Attendees will look at accelerating the global transition to clean energy
  • Friday 5 November: The summit will look at empowering youth and the wider public. It will also seek to demonstrate the critical role of public empowerment and education in climate action. As part of this, education and climate change ministers will meet with young people to discuss the importance of education in creating ‘climate positive’ futures
  • Saturday 6 November: Talks will focus on nature and sustainable land use. The day will aim to get leaders and their delegates to think about how agriculture can become greener and how to better look after the world’s oceans
  • Sunday 7 November: This will be a rest day for negotiators and other delegates
  • Monday 8 November: Delegates will talk about delivering the practical solutions needed for countries to adapt to climate impacts and address any loss and damage caused by climate change. As part of this discussion, communities on the frontline of climate change will share their experiences of its worst effects
  • Tuesday 9 November: The summit will take in two topics. First up will be gender and the role of equality in tackling the climate crisis. Attendees will then turn their focus to science and innovation and how it can help provide a solution to global warming
  • Wednesday 10 November: Negotiators will look at transport and how countries can transition across to zero emission means of getting about 
  • Thursday 11 November: On the final full day of negotiations, countries will look at how communities, cities and regions can advance action to tackle climate change
  • Friday 12 November: Closing of the negotiations

A full list of events can be found on the COP26 website.

Other events at COP26

While world leaders and their negotiating teams are thrashing out agreements, other politicians, business leaders and NGOs will be able to visit more than 80 pavilions that will seek to inspire change.

These pavilions will represent countries, civil society and international organisations, and will host their own curated programmes of events.

Discussions and events will broadly follow the topics set out in the negotiating timetable.

The UK Pavilion, which will have its programme of more than 80 events live streamed via the Government’s YouTube channel, will seek to reaffirm the country’s COP26 Presidency goals of getting countries to be more ambitious about tackling climate change.

Events include a discussion on ‘The Power of TV’ featuring the actor Mark Strong, a youth-led event featuring a key-note speech from the adventurer Bear Grylls and how sport can ‘Help Kick Carbon’ featuring numerous British sporting heroes, including ex-rugby player Martin Offiah and former cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent.

The UK will also aim to influence the world’s more repressive societies with events like ‘How Gender Equality Improves Science, Tech and Innovation for Climate Action’.

A full timetable of events can be found on the UK Pavilion section of the COP26 website.

COP26 key facts: all you need to know about 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. (Graphic: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)

What can members of the public see at COP26?

For members of the public with tickets from the COP26 Green Zone website, The Glasgow Science Centre will be open from 1 to 12 November.

The Centre will host more than 200 events, including: cultural performances, exhibitions, talks, film screenings and technical demonstrations.

These will be led by people and organisations from around the world.

For more information on what public events will be taking place, please head to the COP26 website.

People wishing to attend the public events will have to go through airport-style security checks.

They will also be subject to Scottish Covid-19 protocols. For example, guests will need to scan a QR code to check-in to the venue and will also be advised to wear a face covering during their visit.

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