COP26: this year’s summit in Glasgow must do more to tackle climate change before it is too late

The much-anticipated COP26 will start from 31st October to 12th November in Glasgow - but do the climate summits actually make any difference?

The United Nations COP conference has been running since 1995 where world leaders and representatives of the world’s nations gather together to tackle the disastrous and worsening climate change.

This year, the 26th COP conference is taking place in Glasgow, billed as the ‘last chance’ to take action to prevent the warming of our planet.

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But, throughout the years as these conferences have taken place there has been no real change so far.

So how impactful are the COP conferences on reversing climate change? Are the summits simply a facade for world leaders to look like climate policy is at the forefront of their agendas?

Are COP conferences successful?

COP conferences have been held annually for 26 years and yet the planet is at breaking point.

Extreme weather and the effects of climate change are being seen around the globe more than ever before, seriously affecting people’s lives, habitats and the environment.

Still, nations that are part of these summits continue to churn out plastic, increasingly emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide and do not invest enough into environmental projects that would cut carbon.

It was recently revealed by NationalWorld that there has been a huge decline in renewable wind farm planning applications in the UK due to lack of investment - even though this would help with the UK’s net-zero target by 2050.

More than half of the countries that have hosted a COP conference were also emitting more carbon dioxide in 2019 than they were back in 1995 when the first meeting was held, according to figures from Our World in Data - gathered from the Global Carbon Project.

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Host nations emitting more are less developed countries such as India, Qatar, Kenya and Peru, whereas countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark have seen their levels decrease over the 24-year period, albeit only slightly.

The stark contrast in the levels of carbon dioxide emissions between the most and least developed countries in 2019 shows how leading nations still need to do more to work towards dropping the overall emissions in the world’s atmosphere.

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Over a 24-year period combined levels of carbon dioxide from the leading host nations of COP have not dropped but have significantly increased - what does this say about the impact of COP conferences?

The less advanced nations also saw a huge spike in their consumption-based carbon dioxide levels which account for trade, by excluding emissions from producing goods that a country ultimately exports, whilst adding in emissions for goods that it imports.

This demonstrates how much less has been done to help these countries reduce their emissions, despite climate solutions for less-developed nations being a key factor of the COP conference.

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If COP is to have any credibility and more still to prevent climate change from getting worse, the next data set must see lowering carbon dioxide emissions from all of the summit’s host countries.

Is there hope for COP26?

Doubt has already risen over the credibility of COP26 and whether agreements will actually be made.

On Monday 25 October, Boris Johnson said ​​he was “very worried” the climate summit would not be able to achieve the key goals in order to reverse climate change.

The Prime Minister added: “It’s touch and go, it’s very, very difficult… it’s very far from clear that we’ll get the progress that we need.”

The President of China, Xi JinPing, and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin are both not attending COP26 despite being two of the world’s biggest polluters of greenhouse gas emissions - with the former country being the leading polluter.

This begs the question of whether the conference can make any solid progress without two of the world’s biggest polluters present.

The recent Emissions Gaps Report has also indicated how far away the countries attending the summit are from lowering the already high levels of climate change.

COP26’s target is to reduce global warming to 1.5C however the report estimates current countries’ carbon-cutting commitments put us on a trajectory for 2.7C by the end of this century.

This damning report demonstrates the enormous amount countries still have to do in order to prevent climate change from getting worse.

COP26 has a lot of key issues and solutions the world leaders must discuss and agree upon in order to take action in helping our planet, stop it from warming any further and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But the track record of past COP conferences in delivering environmental change and solutions is not good.

Let’s hope this year’s summit will finally push world leaders to deliver, agree and act upon true climate solutions, policies and goals - before it is too late.

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