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COP26 in 2021

For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority.  COP26 in 2021 will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK as President, COP26 takes place in Glasgow from 1 – 12 November 2021. Italy will partner with the UK in leading COP26. For the most part, their role will be in preparatory work such as the hosting of a pre-COP session and an event for young people called Youth4Climate 2020: Driving Ambition. These events were scheduled to take place between 28 September and 2 October 2020 in Milan.

COP26 in 2021 is set to incorporate the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 16th meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP16), and the third meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA3).

This conference is the first time that Parties are expected to commit to enhanced ambition since COP21. Parties are required to carry out every five years, as outlined in the Paris Agreement

What do we need to achieve at COP26?

At COP26 we must:

– finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
– accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

In real terms

Burning fossil fuels and charcoal in basic cooking stoves continues to cause the premature death of more than 1.6 million women a year – most of whom are in Africa.  That statistic served to illustrate lack of availability of clean and cheap renewable energy in developing and climate-vulnerable countries, Damilola Ogunbiyi of Sustainable Energy for All told Dublin Climate Dialogues.

If the world does not ensure cheap and clean renewable energy is made available for all, a key UN sustainable development goal for 2030 would not be achieved, making the target of net-zero emissions by 2050 impossible, added Ms Ogunbiyi who is the UN special representative for sustainable energy. (see link to Irish Times article below).

Damilola Ogunbiyi hopes the upcoming COP26 summit would address the issue of developing countries having no alternative to fossil fuels. The technology is available to bring on renewable energy but these countries do not have the ability to fund it.

Sinéad Walsh, Irish climate envoy said this issue, combined with layers of injustice and the worsening effects of climate disruption, was glaring in Africa. Every year flooding was worse than the year before, indicated by the collapse of bridges and buildings with the worst impacts on slum areas. Water issues were increasing tensions and exacerbating conflicts, she noted.

In response, Ireland was ramping up climate actions and doubling climate finance directed as the least resilient countries including small island states. Conscious of the layers of climate injustice, she said, it was recognising the need for the voices of frontline people in these countries to be heard – especially at COP26.

Fossil fuels

Dr Aidan Farrow, an air pollution scientist at Greenpeace Research Laboratories in the University of Exeter states that COP26 needs to fully recognise that toxic air associated with burning fossil fuels is having catastrophic impacts on human health.

Pollution from fossil fuels is responsible for 4.5 million premature deaths globally each year, underlining the need to shift away from these energy sources not just for climate reasons but for health reasons, he said.

The UK as President & host

In the run up to COP26 the UK is working with every nation to reach agreement on how to tackle climate change. More than 190 world leaders will arrive in Scotland. Joining them will be tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens for twelve days of talks. Not only is it a huge task but it is also not just yet another international summit with most experts believing that COP26 has a unique urgency.

Four main goals at COP26?

  1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.  Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.  To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to: accelerate the phase-out of coal; curtail deforestation; speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.  The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.  At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to: protect and restore ecosystems; build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.
  3. Mobilise finance.  To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.  International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
  4. Work together to deliver. We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

Some useful links used to inform the content of this news item:

Climate change continues to extract unacceptable death toll, conference told (irishtimes.com)

LATEST NEWS – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)

HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)



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