Why is COP26 important? Goals of Glasgow climate change conference - and how it relates to Paris Agreement

Why is Cop26 so important? It could be the last chance to save the planet from a climate catastrophe...

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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as “Cop26”) summit in Glasgow will be attended by world leaders from 31 October.

It is being billed as the last, best chance to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous climate change.

It was delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic, and organisers have been keen to push for an in-person event this year to allow all countries to participate effectively and secure a successful outcome to climate negotiations, while ensuring it is a Covid-safe event.

But why is it so imperative, and what are the goals of the summit?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What are the goals of Cop26?

The four main goals of Cop26 are: “Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5C degrees within reach; adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; mobilise finance, and work together to deliver.”

The summit will involve calls to accelerate the phasing out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles, and encourage investment in renewables.

Why is it important?

(Image: NationalWorld/JPIMedia)(Image: NationalWorld/JPIMedia)
(Image: NationalWorld/JPIMedia)

The event comes hot on the heels of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which painted a stark picture of the impact of humanity on the climate due to the burning of fossil fuels and other pollution.

According to the findings, global warming will continue into at least the middle of this century, but failure to take action to limit CO2 emissions now would mean the target set by governments – of remaining below 1.5C of warming – will be missed.

The report also claimed that global warming could even exceed 2C in this century without urgent action.

The IPCC said the higher the temperature, the more likely severe weather events are to occur, including increased rainfall and drought.

Scotland’s Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson said Cop26 could be the last chance to save the planet from a climate catastrophe.

“This report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the very real threat and heightened risk the climate emergency poses to the planet – but it also makes it clear that with immediate, concerted international action to reduce emissions, global temperature rise can still be limited to 1.5C in the longer term,” he said.

“Cop26 in Glasgow represents the world’s best chance – perhaps one of our last chances – to avert the worst impacts of climate change.”

How does it relate to the Paris Agreement?

The meeting is the most important round of UN talks since the global Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was secured.

At UN climate talks in Paris in 2015, the world agreed to pursue efforts to prevent temperatures rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming.

“We must deliver on the principles of the Paris Agreement,” said Matheson, “with lasting action to secure a net-zero and climate-resilient future in a way that is fair and just for everyone.”

“The eyes of the world will be on Cop26 and on Scotland this year.”

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement in 2017, while his Democratic challengers pledged to immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement and increase ambition to reduce emissions.

On 20 January 2021, President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Accord.

What will happen at Cop26?

Key themes in the Cop26 climate summit will be explored on different days, a timetable for the United Nations conference shows.

After kicking off with the World Leaders Summit on 1 and 2 November, each day will focus on a different theme, beginning with finance, energy and then youth and public empowerment, throughout the two-week event in Glasgow.

Others include discussions on cities of the future, zero-emission transport and protecting nature, to ensuring the inclusion of women, girls and young people is at the centre of climate action, said Cop26.

Published in July, the timetable, called the UK’s Presidency Programme, “will run alongside the formal negotiations which sit at the heart of the UN summit and will focus on closing off the outstanding aspects of the Paris Agreement.”

When is Cop26?

The SEC complex in Glasgow will host the gathering of world leaders for two weeks from 31 October to 12 November.

Young people, businesses and community groups will be among those holding events open to the public in a “green zone” during the Cop26 climate change conference.

More than 200 events will be hosted in the zone at the Glasgow Science Centre from 1 to 12 November.

The green zone will showcase cultural performances, exhibitions, talks, film screenings and technical demonstrations, with people from the fields of academia and art among those taking part.

Tickets are available free of charge via the Cop26 website, and most events will also be streamed live on the Cop26 YouTube channel.

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