Why is 1.5 degrees important? The Paris Agreement on global temperatures explained for COP26

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Scientists and activists at COP26 have warned that the planet is heating up at an exceptional rate, but a 1.5 degree global warming target may give the world a lifeline.

World leaders and thousands of delegates have descended on Glasgow to pitch their plans to combat global warming after coming together six years ago to sign the Paris Agreement.

During COP26 in the Scottish city, many will be speaking about the 1.5 degree target as set out in the document, but what exactly does this mean and how will countries help achieve this goal?

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What does the Paris Agreement say about 1.5 degrees?

The main aim of the Paris Agreement, which was signed by 192 parties in 2015, is to reduce global emissions to reduce global warming.

In article two of the document, it states that countries should aim to combat global warming by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

This means that countries are striving to keep the rise in global warming temperatures to an ideal target of 1.5 degrees, with a target of keeping them “well below” two degrees.

Why is 1.5 degrees enough to help save the planet?

It is believed that global warming temperatures breaking the 1.5 degree target will see major climate change catastrophes and effects taking place in several different countries.

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Scientists say that keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees by 2100 will help to reduce the risk of these devastating effects to places such as Australia, Africa and the Middle East.

Fire crews control bush fires in Perth, Australia in February, 2021. (Credit: Getty)Fire crews control bush fires in Perth, Australia in February, 2021. (Credit: Getty)
Fire crews control bush fires in Perth, Australia in February, 2021. (Credit: Getty) | Getty Images

If temperatures are not reduced, these places, and many others, will be hit with severe droughts, food shortages and extreme heatwaves in our lifetimes.

Will every country reach the 1.5 degree target and what is being done to reach it?

The 1.5 degree target is an average of the rise in global temperatures. While some countries may fall below or above the target, the aim is an average across the world.

This is because different countries are warming at different rates - for example, the North and South Pole, where the rise in temperature is double that of the rest of the world having risen two degrees since 1900.

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World leaders are under pressure to not let global temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees by 2100. World leaders are under pressure to not let global temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees by 2100.
World leaders are under pressure to not let global temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees by 2100. | JPIMedia

However, at the current rate, the world is set to surpass the 1.5 degree target in only a few decades, with levels expected to hit between 2.7 and 3 degrees by 2100.

This is why so many experts, scientists, activists and world leaders have placed an emphasis on a global response, with countries working together to achieve the 1.5 degree target.

One of the main ways that many countries have committed to reaching this target includes reducing global emissions and cutting the use of fossil fuels.

Why is the 1.5 degree target being mentioned at COP26?

The 1.5 degree goal will be one of the most common talking points at the COP26 event. This is because of the widely held belief that the conference is the last chance to act on climate change to make a difference to the world.

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With the world already nearly 1.1 degrees warmer than the pre-industrial era, it is vital that world leaders and delegates come together to slow down global warming, and COP26 will give countries the opportunity to offer their plan to meet the 1.5 degree target.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “We must keep the goal of 1.5 degrees celsius warming alive.

“This requires greater action on mitigation and immediate concrete steps to reduce global emissions by 45% by 2030. We need maximum ambition – from all countries on all fronts – to make COP26 a success.”

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