26 things you need to know about the COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Monday 18th October 2021

In just under 2 weeks, over 120 world leaders will gather for COP26. If you’ve been following the news, it’s likely you’ve heard people talking about it – but do you actually know what it is and why it’s so important?

Do not fear! We’ve compiled a list of 26 things you need to know about COP26 to get you up to speed before the big event.

1. What does COP26 stand for?

COP26 is the annual UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties.

2. What is a COP?

A ‘COP’ means conference of the parties.

3. When is it taking place?

A year later than planned, COP26 will take place between 31st October and 12th November 2021.

4. Where is it taking place?

At the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland.

5. Why Glasgow?

The presidency is up for grabs each year and typically it alternates between developed and developing countries to represent all regions.

6. Who are the organisers?

This year, the COP is organised by the UK and Italy jointly.

7. Who will attend?

COP26 will be attended by leaders across the world, plus upwards of 30,000 people representing over 200 countries, businesses, NGOs, faith groups and many more.

8. Who is the president?

British politician Alok Sharma was named president of COP26 in January.

9. Why is it important?

There are three main reasons why this summit is so important:

  • In the wake of the pandemic, countries are rebuilding their economies so there has been a major emphasis on building back better through a green recovery
  • COP 26 is a successor to COP21 where the Paris Agreement was signed. This summit is key to address what has / hasn’t been achieved since 2015 and setting concrete plans to reach the Paris Agreement targets
  • It’s also the first COP to be held since the US left and re-joined the Paris Agreement

    10. What is the Paris Agreement?

    The Paris Agreement was agreed at COP21 in 2015. For the first time ever, it saw almost every country around the world enter a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions. Every country – no matter how big or small – signed up to cutting carbon emissions to well below 2 degrees and ideally to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. It left room for each individual country to decide how they would get there. These are called NDCs.

    11. What is an NDC?

    Nationally Determined Contributions are non-binding national plans highlighting climate actions.

    12. Why do we need a COP, don’t we already have the Paris Agreement?

    Paris was the promise, Glasgow needs to deliver.

    13. How often do COPs take place?

    It was agreed that COPs would take place every five years, coming back with an updated action plan of their latest ambitions.

    14. What are the key goals for COP26?

    • 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

    15. What will happen at the climate talks?

    Activity will take place in two zones – the Blue Zone and the Green Zone. The Blue zone is for people registered with the UN body, tasked with co-ordinating the global response to the threat of climate change. Delegates from countries meet for formal negotiations and informal consultations. In the Blue Zone, countries will discuss their NDCs and how these will be actioned.

    The Green Zone is for the general public. There will be several events, workshops, art exhibitions and installations.

    16. Which countries have submitted a new NDC?

    As of Sep 2021, 86 countries and the EU27 have submitted new or updated NDCs. The UK for example has pledged to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030, and 78% by 2035.

    17. Can I attend COP26?

    Yes! You can sign up to attend events in the Green Zone here.

    18. Will there be virtual events too?

    Yes, you can join virtually by subscribing to the COP26 Youtube channel.

    19. Will China be attending, since they are the largest polluter?

    It’s still not known whether the president, Xi Jinping will attend. His attendance would be a major boost. He recently pledged that China would reach net zero emissions by 2060.

    20. Why does 1.5-degrees matter?

    At 2 degrees of global warming there would be widespread and severe impact on people and nature. At 1.5 degrees, the impacts would be serious, but less severe. There would be lower risks of food and water shortages, lower risks to economic growth and fewer species at risk of extinction.

    21. Is COP26 just about 1.5 degrees?

    No. There are several discussions taking place throughout the 2-week period. Countries must also communicate new or updated NDCs and how to ingrate these into the Paris Implementation Strategy.

    22. What else will be covered at COP26?

    COP26 will start to discuss how to integrate NDCs into the Paris implementation strategy.

    23. Boris Johnson keeps talking about ‘coal, cash, cars and trees’. What does he mean?

    These are the areas which the UK is calling on all countries to make big commitments. Coal – kicking the habit of coal by the end of the decade. Cars – governments should abandon the use of internal combustion engines and transition to electric. Cash – developed countries need to honour the $100 billion climate pledge bund. Trees – governments need to protect nature and ‘end the massacre of the forests’.

    24. What will success look like?

    All G20 countries committing to cut emissions by at least 45%, getting the worlds wealthiest nations to deliver on their pledges.

    25. What happens if COP26 fails?

    COP26 has commonly been billed as one of the last changes to halt the disastrous impacts of the climate crisis. Without successfully agreeing how to world will move forward to reduce emissions, the 1.5-2 degrees target will not be met. The impacts of this will be felt globally. A senior UN official has however quoted that COP26 is an important milestone, but it should not be seen as the end of the game where we give up on 1.5 degrees’.

    26. What happens after COP26?

    Well, this depends on what is agreed during the negotiations. If it goes well, new low-carbon markets may emerge. It will also be agreed who will host the next COP, which is due to be hosted by an African nation.

    Jessica Parrilla

    Certifications and Memberships