COP26 – What is the global summit aiming for?
This coming November, the 26th edition of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (or COP26 for short) will take place in Glasgow, Scotland.
Next month, the eyes of the world will be on Britain as it hosts the global summit in a last attempt to convince world leaders to commit and address the challenges facing our planet.
This might be the last time that the collective efforts of joint states could really bring about significant change and reduce emissions for the next decade, averting some catastrophic consequences related to global warming in the years to come.
The event, which begins on October 31st and lasts all the way through November 12th, has been happening since 1995. Under this umbrella event, world leaders have met annually to try and collectively address the issue of climate change. This year’s edition will have on overarching goal: putting the world on a map of trying to aggressively tackle green house emissions and slow down the planet’s global warming.
The event represents a unique opportunity, given the grave circumstances related to climate change and the state of our planet that we see play out on a daily basis. In 2021 alone, the rampant wildfires that spread across the Western Coast in the United States, the deadly floods in Europe this summer, Canada’s head dome or China’s flooding represented red flags in an array of climate alarms that have been raised in recent years.
The climate summit that begins next month and which spans two weeks, could be the chance that everyone was waiting for, to put into practice the goals, commitments and mission of the 2015 Paris climate accord, initiated by the former Obama Administration.
Former presidential hopeful and current special envoy for climate under President Biden, John Kerry, announced that: “the measure of success at Glasgow is we will have the largest, most significant increase in ambition [on cutting emissions] by more countries than everyone ever imagined possible. A much larger group of people are stepping up.”
“I know certain countries are working hard right now on what they can achieve. There is not a wall that comes down after Glasgow,” said Kerry. “It is the starting line for the rest of the decade,” said Kerry in an interview given to The Guardian.
Kerry is one of the key people working on a deal that would be presented at the Glasgow Summit, promising to meet the aims of the former Paris deal, such as binding nations to hold global heating to below 2C, with an aspirational limit of 1.5C.
Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, 197 states promised to keep global temperatures below 2C, while pursuing the effort to stay within 1.5C. However, it turned out that commitment that almost all of the world governments had made back in 2015 were too weak, leading to even 3C heating.
Since the Paris climate accord in 2015, world leaders pretty much failed to meet the commitments that they had set out. The world has gotten 1.2 Celsius hotter, which prevents the deal’s most ambitious commitment from being a reality: that is, halting global warming to 1.5 Celsius.
What are the big players doing?
At the upcoming summit, the spotlight will be focusing on one of the key players of these talks: China. As the world’s biggest emitter, the Chinese government has to weigh in and issue a strong commitment, if the summit is due to be regarded as somewhat of a success. While China has so far made some commitments with regards to the climate change, in the case of a partnership with the EU and talks with the US, it is unclear whether President Xi will attend the summit.
The United States, which under the Trump Administration, exited the Paris climate accord, has re-entered the agreement under President Biden. The current Democratic President has vowed to cut gas pollution by half by the year 2030, an ambitious promise.
Probably one of the main goals of this year’s COP26 would be to build a consensus around the emission cutting plans. However, while small countries who have dictated much of the agenda of this summit in the past (given how these have experienced some of the more horrendous consequences of global warming), it would require for large states and world powers with big economies, who still depend on polluting industries, to significantly pledge to cut down their emissions.
In addition, Great Britain – the host country – of COP26, has other aspirations as well. The success of this summit is important for Boris Johnson’s Britain also for political reasons – with the Conservative conference last week, the British prime minister portrayed a fairly different Britain than the one experienced by regular Britons.
The pains of Brexit are starting to hurt – Britons are lining up for gas, there are food shortages at grocery stores, higher taxes and spiralling prices. With Great Britain out of the European question, the country feels a pressure to redeem herself and to prove that she is just as relevant on the global stage.
Photo source: COP26