Fact file

What is COP26 and what are its aims?

UK to play host to UN Climate Change Conference in November

The UK will this year host two global summits, playing host to the G7 summit in June and the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in November.

COP26, which was scheduled to take place last year but delayed due to the pandemic, will bring together the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty agreed in 1994.

The last conference, COP25, was held in Madrid in November 2019 with Greta Thunberg's arrival bringing more attention to the event.

Who will be attending?

Every member of the UN is a signatory to the UNFCCC, as well as Palestine, the Cook Islands and Niue. This effectively means that every nation, country or state in the world is involved, making a total of 197 signatory parties.

COP26 will be held in Glasgow and is being coordinated by Conservative MP Alok Sharma who was appointed chair of the conference in February 2020.

Environmental news website CarbonBrief says that the last conference, COP25, had the aim to “finalise the rulebook of the Paris Agreement”, however, “the talks were unable to reach consensus in many areas”.

At the time, UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “disappointed” with the results, adding: “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”

What is the aim of this year’s conference?

Much of this year’s climate conference will centre on delivering goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as moving the UN Climate Change process forward. 

The conference is “being viewed as the successor to COP21”, the conference at which the agreement was signed, Euronews reports. The summit will be used to “both address what has and hasn’t been achieved since 2015, while also setting concrete plans to reach the Paris Agreement targets”, the site adds. 

One of the key aims of the Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to between 1.5C and 2C by mid-century. The success of this goal, and others agreed in the deal, is dependent on all countries committing to “reaching net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and to significant further cuts by 2030”, according to a government report briefing in the run-up to COP26.

In March Sharma set out the UK’s aims as host. These four goals are:

  • For countries to set net zero emissions targets, which governments responsible for two-thirds of global emissions have already done, and to set targets for emissions cuts by 2030
  • To formulate plans for countries to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis
  • To encourage rich countries to provide finance to the poor world for emissions cuts and adaptation
  • For civil society to take a strong role in the talks.

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