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COP26: What is it, and Why is it Important?

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COP26, or the Glasgow climate conference, is scheduled to be held in the coming weeks. The United Kingdom will be the host of the meeting this year. The conference, considered to be a possible turning point for climate action, will start on 31st October and go on till 12th November.

What is COP26?

According to a report published by the BBC, the COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Established by the UN, COP held its first meeting in 1995 at Berlin, Germany. This year, the UK will be hosting the 26th COP meeting at Glasgow.

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The COP is the “supreme decision-making body” of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). All States part of the Convention receive representation at the COP. The body reviews the execution of UNFCCC provisions, and take decisions to effectively implement all aspects of the Convention. Part of UN’s Climate Change actions, it reviews “national communications and emission inventories submitted by Parties (member-states)”. Following this, COP makes decisions to further the Convention’s progress.

These sessions are generally held in Bonn, the seat of the secretariat. However, the location changes if a Party offers to host the meeting. COP also has a mechanism for Presidency. It rotates among the five recognized UN regions. These regions are Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, and Western Europe and others. The venue for the meetings then rotates among these regional groups.

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Spain hosted the previous session, COP25, in Madrid in December of 2019.

Why is the COP26 important?

Carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions are one of the biggest reasons for the current global climate crisis. IPCC has released reports indicating that the world is quickly running out of its carbon budget. The budget is the amount of carbon we can still afford to emit before we go beyond the 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures. This temperature marker is an indicator of “a point of no return” in a way. This is because the rise would set in motion an irreversible chain reaction furthering global warming. Many scientists and activists have expressed concerns about a plausible climate catastrophe event in the coming decades.

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Furthermore, there have been extreme weather events in recent years. This includes Germany’s intense floods, forest fires in Turkey and Siberia, to name a few. Regional weathers are also going through a seemingly permanent change with hotter summers, colder but shorter winters, extremely heavy rainfalls, or even intense droughts. According to the BBC, the past decade was the warmest ever recorded in history. Rising temperatures are also causing collective behavioural changes in people.

Other than expectations to address these alarming developments, 200 member countries have also been asked to make bigger emission cuts until the 2025 net-zero goal is reached, as part of the Paris Agreement.

What to Expect from COP26?

According to BBC, the body will review countries’ emission reduction plans by 2030 at the meeting. Some major development-climate nexus issues will likely be addressed. The disproportionate climate risks the developing Global South faces despite polluting less than the developing world could be one of the main sticking points. To cope with goals of development and climate action together, we can expect some announcements about solid renewable energy plans and flood defence systems. Further, the BBC has put forward the possibility of a “battle over compensation” for developing nations affected by climate change.

The meeting’s agenda may also include discussions about the missed target of the 100 billion USD climate finance pledge by rich countries to aid poorer nations by 2020.

China has now become the world’s biggest polluter, meaning that the country could be the focus of discussions. The PRC has invested in coal stations worldwide, and is part of several fossil energy deals. China’s commitments towards carbon emission cuts might be gauged at the meeting.

What Does COP26 Mean for You?

If the Glasgow conference ends up successful- in terms of strong commitments towards carbon cuts, biodiversity protection, financial packages for developing countries, and overall a very strong and proactive plan to prevent the 1.5-degree rise in global temperatures, it could mean significant changes in our daily lives.

Nothing is set in stone for the time being. However, according to BBC analyses, COP26 might change what type of fuel we use in our cars, the kind of electricity we use, and the number of flights we take.

Read more news by the DU Express team here.

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