What Is COP26? The Climate Summit That Determines Our Future

One of the most pivotal moments in climate change history is currently underway. The 2021 United Nations climate change conference, otherwise known as COP26, is taking place in Glasgow and will discuss the fate of our climate emergency.


climate summit

COP26, which is short for Conference of the Parties, will unfold over the course of 12 days beginning on the 31st of October and finishing 12th November. The conference will host a range of discussions from world leaders and climate activists, in order to put into action, the various commitments that are essential for the future of our planet. It will also give a chance for scientists and climate change activists to put forward their own experiences and understanding of the climate emergency we face. This is the 26th annual summit that has taken place (hence the name COP26) but is the first to be led by the UK. It will be the largest amount of world leaders ever gathered on British soil before.

The significant number of influential attendees only highlights the severity of the position that we are in regarding climate change. The consequences of climate change that we once saw as a distant concern for the far future are now unfolding in front of us and there is no longer time for planning. What must come from COP26 is action.

As Prince Charles explained, ‘it is the last chance saloon to save the planet’.

With immense pressure to halt the current trajectory of global warming, COP26 has set down a range of goals to be discussed over the course of the 12 days.

The Goals:

1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century by asking countries to come forward with strategic plans to reduce emissions by 2030, to then be net-zero by 2050. Countries will be asked to accelerate the phase out of coal, curtail deforestation, switch to electric cars faster, and further invest in renewable energy resources.

2. Protect communities and natural habitats by reducing emissions and building resilient infrastructure and ecosystem restoration in order to protect wildlife habitats, homes, and essentially people’s lives.

3. Mobilise finances by ensuring that developed countries are putting aside $100bn to help finance climate solutions globally. As underdeveloped countries do not have such generous funding for climate aid, this $100bn was intended to be given to assist said countries in making greener changes such as renewable energy sources.

4. Work together to deliver. Guaranteeing countries are working together in order to uphold Paris Climate Agreement (COP21) aims.

There have already been some flaws in these ambitious plans. Due to Covid, countries, both rich and poor are struggling to recover financially, and this had meant that the goal of $100bn climate finance, which was supposed to be reached in 2020, will now not be achieved until 2023.

Additionally, a number of influential countries have chosen not to attend the climate summit this year. Xi Jinping of China and Vladamir Putin of Russia have both decided against attending due to separate reasons. A loss that is notably concerning due to China being the highest polluting country in the world.

climate protest

Climate change conferences are essential for the agreement and cooperation of countries to tackle climate change and that cannot be done if some countries do not participate. The success of any COP is dependent on global agreement, especially COP26, as it will be the time to follow up on all aims set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The agreement was formed at the Paris Climate Summit of 2015, otherwise known as COP21. One of the most recognised climate summits, it was this conference that all countries were able to come together to agree on one end goal for climate change redemption. As previously explained in our blog post ‘The Climate Pledge’, the Paris Climate Agreement is a treaty internationally formed to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This number is essential in stopping catastrophic destruction such as tsunamis and forest fires, like what we have been witnessing over previous years.

Sir David Attenborough took to the stage of COP26, with a passionate speech to capture the attention of the 120 leaders that watched. He exclaimed clearly, “we are already in trouble. The stability we all depend on is breaking.” The speech along with its accompanying video showed the undeniable devastation that has taken place due to global warming. However, Attenborough went on to tell that it is not too late, stating that “our motivation must not be fear, but hope.”

The conference has heard a number of speeches over the last 2 days, for example, the likes of Boris Johnson and the President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who stated “fellow leaders, we must make this COP26 a success. We owe it to our children!”

Passion has driven COP26 thus far and ecological figureheads and experts have done their all to inspire change in our world leaders’ minds, as they commence the next two weeks of debate and comprise. Ultimately, however, the fate of COP26 and our future planet relies now on the shared agreement for action by all those who have attended. As the days unfold ahead it will be a tense waiting game to see if COP26 can deliver on the promises it has made to put an end to the climate emergency.