What is COP26 all about?

You may have heard that in November, the UK will be hosting something called COP26. Although it is an important international event, there has been very little in the media telling us what its all about.

The next series of blogs, will explain what a ‘COP’ is, outline the goals of COP26, and explain their relevance to Action 21 and to all our lives.

First of all, what is a COP?

COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. The parties means all the groups who take part in a convention, which is a formal meeting for a specific purpose. The job of a COP is to look at what was agreed, see whether actions have been taken and decide what still needs to be done.

Some examples of other conferences which have a COP have been on chemical and nuclear weapons, tobacco, and the environment.

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. It is the 26th annual conference to review the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (pdf). The first one (The ‘Earth Summit’) was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The parties, are mainly countries or groups of countries. This year, the COP will also review the Kyoto Protocol from December 1997 and the Paris Agreement from 2015.

What is the UNFCCC?

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty to fight “dangerous human interference with the climate system” (their words). It aims to stop the rise in greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, particularly carbon-dioxide from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas). Countries that signed it, were expected to commit to actions that would achieve targets.

Photo by Thijs Stoop on Unsplash

What is the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol was a treaty added to original framework. It set levels to try to prevent serious climate change. It also acknowledged that developed countries had produced the most emissions and had a greater responsibility.

What is the Paris Agreement

This was a further agreement, signed at COP21 in Paris. It had the goal of stopping the global average temperature from rising above 2ºC from pre-industrial levels. It aimed to achieve a ‘net-zero’ (no overall increase) in CO2 emissions by the second half of this century. It was negotiated by 196 parties and agreed by 191. The USA was briefly withdrawn by Donald Trump, but rejoined in 2021, under Biden’s administration.

What are the COP26 goals?

There are four goals this year. These are based on an understanding that the threat of climate change is, “The greatest risk facing us all” and that so far, action has been too little, too late, in spite of all the targets that have been set since 1992.

The four goals are:

  • Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  • Mobilise finance
  • Work together to deliver

Each of these will be explained in the next four blog entries, including how they relate to Action21 and to our local community.

COP26 First goal is now explained in our blog here.