It’s all over the news, but is the climate conference COP26 actually going to make a difference? If you’re hearing a lot about COP26, but aren’t sure why this climate conference is so important, we’ve put together a five minute intro to your climate change talking points for the next couple of weeks.
As we well know, the climate change debate is intensifying daily – sea levels are rising, pollution is intensifying and the world is heating up – and COP (the United Nations Climate Change conference) is supposed to be the chance for nations to share knowledge and encourage others to help combat negative impacts on our environment.
Research indicates less than 3% of people think climate change isn’t a serious matter, so opinion has certainly been moving in the right direction in recent years. But for those 97% who are concerned, we want to be doing everything we can to play our part in whatever small way, to prevent irreversible damage. COP26 therefore comes sharply into focus. If you care about climate change and the policies behind these summits then you’re likely asking questions such as:
What is the main message about climate change at COP26?
What will be discussed at COP?
Why is COP26 so important?
What are some of the major objectives of global climate summits and conferences?
As ever, we’re here to help. Here’s a handy breakdown of why the upcoming climate conference is so important.
It builds on the work of previous conferences. The last major climate summit was COP25, held in Madrid in 2019. It was deemed a failure as the likes of the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, China and Brazil kicked discussions over carbon emissions down the road to COP26.
Climate conferences aim to hold these nations to account. They’re on the world stage and that makes it a lot harder for them to back down from core issues affecting our planet. The climate change debate in 2021 has been all about ratifying the Paris agreement – and that’s what will be on the agenda come COP26.
There’s a lot of chat about the world being net-zero by 2050 and of mobilising finance in order to pay for green investments. But the most important decision at COP26 is to finalise the Paris Rulebook of global goals and agreements set out in the Paris Accord from 2016.
If this is done countries will then be held accountable for not pulling their weight in reducing emissions. However, getting states such as China, the US and Russia on board could be difficult – regardless of what their leaders say on camera.
World leaders like to use big climate conferences such as COP26 to make a statement and look green, even if their subsequent policies don’t always stack up.
Among the list of confirmed political attendees for COP26 are:
US president Joe Biden
UK prime minister Boris Johnson
Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
French president Emmanuel Macron
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau
The World Leaders Summit at COP26 will be held on 1-2 November.
Queen Elizabeth II is also expected to attend. And while climate activist Greta Thunberg is not yet confirmed, we’re likely to hear from her at some point following her previous criticism of world leaders.
We hear plenty of news about climate change, but it’s only at summits such as COP26 that this stuff is taken seriously on an international level. If you care about making a big difference, you need to have the right definitions of the most important issues in order to cut through the jargon and know what the scientists and politicians are talking about.
Here’s a short glossary of some terms you need to know heading into any climate conference…
Biodiversity – The variety of all the different species of organisms on Earth or within an ecosystem. Biodiversity loss is one of the key pillars being tackled at the conference.
Climate change – the two words that we are probably all most familiar with and refers to the changing in the world’s climate caused principally by the emission of fossil fuels. This is reflected in long term changes to temperatures and weather patterns.
CO2 – Carbon Dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas produced by human activity. This and other toxins are accelerants to climate change.
Carbon-neutral – When a process does not increase the overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it takes in as much carbon dioxide as it releases. An example is the burning of biofuels.
Climate justice – An approach to the climate crisis from a social justice perspective. It acknowledges the fair treatment of all people and the freedom from discrimination in the creation of policies and projects that address climate change.
Global warming – Global temperatures have increased by 1.7°c over the last century, causing ice sheets to melt and ocean deoxygenation.
Paris Agreement – A multi-national pledge to keep global temperature rises below 2°c. The US withdrew in 2017 but then rejoined on the day Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. The Paris Rulebook still hasn’t been signed off.
Green energy – Energy types that are generated from natural resources, such as water, wind or sunlight.
If you can’t attend COP26 or any other climate summit in person then that doesn’t mean you can’t help spread the message of climate change. Talking to your local community, friends and family can spread the knowledge of environmental issues that impact us all.
Being vocal in the (sadly) inevitable likelihood of climate change skepticism effects will not only help those you speak to but also shut down the nonsense.
What’s more, shopping ethically and understanding how consumerism impacts on the environment helps in its own unique way. So whether it’s planning a plastic free July, or choosing sustainable sunglasses, it’s the small things we all do that make a big difference.
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