What Is COP26? A Look at the Upcoming Glasgow Climate Change Conference

Upcoming Glasgow Climate Change Conference

For two weeks in November, world leaders and national negotiators will meet in Scotland to discuss what to do about climate change. It is a complex process that can be difficult to understand from the outside, but this is how international law and institutions help solve problems that no country can solve alone.

I worked for the United Nations for several years as a law and policy advisor and have participated in international negotiations. This is what is happening behind closed doors and why people are concerned that COP26 will not meet its objectives.

What is COP26?

In 1992, the countries agreed to an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which established ground rules and expectations for global cooperation in the fight against climate change. It was the first time that most nations formally recognized the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming that drives climate change.

That treaty has been updated since then, including in 2015 when nations signed the Paris climate agreement. That agreement set the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), and preferably 1.5 C (2.7 F), to avoid catastrophic climate change.

COP26 means the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. The “parties“They are the 196 countries that ratified the treaty plus the European Union. The United Kingdom, in association with Italy, will host COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12, 2021, after a one-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why are world leaders so focused on climate change?

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in August 2021, warns in its strongest terms yet that human activities have unequivocally warmed the planet, and that climate change is now widespread, rapid and intensifying.

IPCC scientists explain how climate change has been fueling extreme weather events and floods, severe heat waves and droughts, loss and Endangered species, and the melting ice sheets and rising sea levels. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a “Code red for humanity”.

There are already enough greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, and they stay there long enough, so even in the most ambitious scenario Of the countries that are rapidly reducing their emissions, the world will experience a rise in temperatures at least until the middle of the century.

However, a small window of opportunity remains. If countries can reduce global emissions to “net zero“By 2050, that could bring warming back to less than 1.5 C in the second half of the 21st century. How to get closer to that course is what leaders and negotiators are discussing.

What happens at COP26?

During the first days of the conference, around 120 heads of state, such as US President Joe Biden, and their representatives will meet to demonstrate their political commitment to slowing climate change.

Once the heads of state depart, country delegations, often led by environment ministers, participate in days of negotiations, events and exchanges. to adopt their positions, make new commitments and join new initiatives. These interactions are based on months of previous discussions, policy documents and proposals prepared by groups of states, UN personnel and other experts.

Non-governmental organizations and business leaders also attend the conference, and COP26 has a public side with sessions focused on topics such as the impact of climate change on small island states, forests or agriculture, as well as exhibitions and other events.

The meeting ends with a final text with which all countries agree. Guterres publicly expressed disappointment with the outcome of COP25, and there are signs of trouble heading to COP26.

What is COP26 expected to achieve?

Under the Paris Agreement, countries must update their national climate action plans every five years, including at COP26. This year, they are expected to have ambitious targets until 2030. These are known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDC.

The Paris Agreement requires countries to report their NDCs, but allows them leeway to determine how they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The initial set of emission reduction targets in 2015 it was too weak to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A key objective of COP26 is to increase these targets to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the middle of the century.

Another objective of COP26 is increase climate finance help poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change. This is an important justice issue for many developing countries. whose people bear the greatest burden of climate change, but have contributed less to it. Rich countries promised in 2009 to contribute $ 100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations, a goal that has not been reached. the us, UK and EUAmong the largest historic greenhouse gas emitters, they are increasing their financial commitments, and banks, businesses, insurers and private investors are being asked to do more.

Other objectives They include phasing out the use of carbon and creating solutions that preserve, restore or regenerate natural carbon sinks, such as forests.

Another challenge that has derailed past COPs is agreeing implement a carbon trading system described in the Paris Agreement.

Are countries on track to meet international climate goals?

The UN warned in September 2021 that the countries’ revised targets were too weak and would leave the world on track hot 2.7 C (4.9 F) at the end of the century. However, governments also face another challenge this fall that could affect their response: Power supply shortage They have left Europe and China with price spikes for natural gas, coal and oil.

porcelain – the largest issuer in the world – has you have not yet submitted your NDC. The main producers of fossil fuels such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia They seem unwilling to strengthen their commitments. India – a key player as the world’s second largest consumer, producer and importer of coal – has not made a commitment yet either.

Other developing nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa and Mexico are important. That’s how it is Brazil, what, with Javier Bolsonaro Notice, the deforestation of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest and crucial to biodiversity and the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, has increased.

What happens if COP26 does not meet its objectives?

Many connoisseurs believe that COP26 will not achieve its goal to have strong enough commitments from countries to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. That means the world will not be on the right track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the target of keep heating below 1.5 C.

But organizers argue that it is still possible to keep warming below 1.5 ° C. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been leading the United States negotiations, stay hopeful that enough countries will generate momentum for others to strengthen their reduction targets by 2025.

The cost of failure is astronomical. Studies have shown that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius may mean the immersion of small island states, the death of coral reefs, extreme heat waves, floods and forest fires, and widespread poor harvests.

That translates into many premature deaths, more mass migration, great economic losses, vast tracts of uninhabitable land, and violent conflicts over resources and food, what the UN secretary general has called “A hellish future”.

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By Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Center for Human Rights, University of Dayton

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.

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