A Guide to Cop26: What Is Cop26 and What Happened at This Year’s Summit?

November 19, 2021

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If you’ve been anywhere near the news recently, you’ll have no doubt heard about Cop26.


What Is Cop26 and What Happened at This Year’s Summit?

Taking place in Glasgow from October 31 until 12 November, this year’s Cop26 saw leaders from across the world meet to discuss some of the most pressing climate issues of our time.

Cop26 was hailed as an important turning point for the environment; firmer action needs to be taken before it’s too late for our planet. What was discussed and agreed upon at the conference affects us all. That’s why we’ve pulled together this handy summary about everything that went down at Cop26.


What Is Cop26?

COP started in 1995 when countries from across the globe joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signalling their commitment to tackling climate change and global greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this framework, world leaders hold an annual conference to discuss a joint response to climate change.

Cop26 gets its name from the abbreviation of ‘conference of the parties’ (cop) plus the number of the conference (26 this year). It took place in Glasgow for just under two weeks and was the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted.

The Paris Agreement was probably the most famous pact to come out of a COP summit back in 2015, when 197 countries committed to keeping global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees, with the goal of limiting global warming to around 1.5 degrees.


Why Is It Important?

COP26 was hyped up to be the most important meeting between nations since 2015. Although the Paris Agreement was signed 6 years ago, not enough progress is being made by the individual nations to limit global temperature increases.

After the Paris agreement, the countries that signed up agreed to their own national targets to try and tackle emissions. These targets, also called nationally determined contributions, have proven to be inadequate at curbing increasing temperatures. A big theme at COP26 would be renegotiating this target to stop the earth warming by more than 1.5 degrees.


Who attended COP26?

Cop26 attracted a range of participants, ranging from world leaders and Government officials to protestors and lobbyists. President Joe Biden was in attendance (after the previous US president, Donald Trump, pulled out of the Paris Agreement), as well as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Notable absences included President Putin of Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Bolsonaro of Brazil, and Turkey’s President Erdogan. The Queen was also due to make an appearance at the conference but withdrew under medical advice.

Yet it wasn’t just Government delegates that attended the conference, famous activist Greta Thunberg and national treasure David Attenborough also gave speeches at the conference. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also attended in place of the queen.


What Was Agreed at This Year’s Cop26?

After nearly two weeks of speeches, meetings and negotiations, the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed by nearly 200 countries. To start on a positive note, let’s look at the points that were agreed upon at COP26.

Keeping 1.5 Degree Commitment

A target originally established by the Paris Agreement, the Glasgow Pact reaffirms a commitment to keeping temperatures from increasing more than 1.5 degrees. Current models suggest that we’re likely to exceed this number, with temperatures estimated to increase anywhere between 1.8-2.7 degrees.

Settling Article 6

After years of negotiation, rules governing the international carbon markets were finally agreed upon at COP26. This basically outlines how a country can offset their emissions with carbon credits via investments in global projects. Negotiators agree to avoid ‘double-counting’ these offset emissions to ensure a true reflection of progress being made.

Accelerating targets for COP27

Over the course of the summit, 151 countries submitted new and improved ‘nationally determined contributions’ aimed at slashing emissions by 2030. Other countries are also being called upon to strengthen their emissions targets by 2022.

Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidiaries

Global leaders agreed to gradually phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidiaries that prop up the fossil fuel industry and artificially lower the prices of things like coal, oil, and gas. Whilst subsidiaries are used to make fuel more accessible in lower-income countries, focusing on ‘inefficient’ (defined here as encouraging wasteful consumption), is welcome news.

Stopping Deforestation

Over 100 countries, which contain around 85% of the Earth’s forests, pledged to stop deforestation by 2030. As trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, this is a vital step in helping the planet achieve its emissions goals.

Supporting Developing Countries

After developed countries fail to meet the 2020 goal of $100 billion per annum investment in climate efforts in developing countries, all eyes were on this issue at COP26. The Glasgow Climate Pact made it clear that these countries must fulfil this goal ASAP.

US-China Agreement

In a surprise gesture of diplomacy, both the US and China (two of the world’s top polluters) agree to work together and co-operate to help achieve the 1.5 temperature goals. The main focus of the agreement involves transitioning to green energy and reducing methane emissions.


Why Are Some People Disappointed?

For some, Cop26 didn’t achieve the firm and decisive action that an impending climate crisis demands. Here are the main points of contention from the summit:

Phasing down, not phasing out, coal usage

History was made at COP26, as the Glasgow Climate Pact set out a clear plan to reduce coal consumption. However, there were last-minute objections to the phrase ‘phase out’ which was subsequently replaced with the term ‘phase down’. Some people view this weakening of the language as a watering down of the commitment.

Limited progress on ‘Loss and Damage’ fund

There was disappointment when it came to progress on a ‘Loss and Damage’ fund, which faced opposition from some developed countries. The idea behind Loss and Damage is that countries facing the most serious effects of climate change would have access to financial support. Both Scotland and Belgium made financial pledges to Loss and Damage but apart from that, the only progress made on the matter was a commitment to starting a ‘dialogue’.


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