Although the entire world is now gearing up to tackle the expected arrival of the third wave of Corona pandemic, considering the importance of assessment of the global progress to combat climate change and planning further course of action, the UN Climate Change Conference COP 26 in Glasgow will be held as per its pre-decided schedule, i.e. Sunday, 31st Oct, 2021 – Fri, 12th Nov, 2021.

COP 26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom is a crucial opportunity to achieve pivotal, transformational change in global climate policy and action. It is a credibility test for global efforts to address climate change and it is where Parties must make considerable progress to reach consensus on issues they have been discussing for several years. COP 26 comes against the background of widespread, rapid and intensifying climate change impacts, which are already impacting every region on earth.

Brief on the programme

As per the information available from the United Nations (UN) Climate Change, the meeting will  comprise the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26), the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 16), and the third session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 3). It will be held at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) at Glasgow in the United Kingdom.

COP 26 will be presided over by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat is working with the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to make the necessary arrangements for the conference, which will be held in person, but with a strong virtual component. The secretariat and the UK Government are striving to make the conference as safe and as inclusive as possible.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Because of the dreadful situation that the Corona pandemic has created all over the world, this time the excitement centering around the COP 26 is a bit low in several countries, however, the importance of this meeting can in no ways be underestimated.

The United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC) entered into force on 21st  March 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. The 197 countries that have ratified the convention are called Parties to the Convention. Preventing ‘dangerous’ human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC.

The ultimate objective of the Convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations ‘at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system’. It states that ‘such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner’.

The target of COP 26

While within this tough time such a big conference is being organised, naturally the question arises – what is being expected through this gathering?

In fact there are a number of things to achieve, namely: Securing global net zero by mid-century and keeping 1.5 degreeCs within reach; Adapting to protect communities and natural habitats; Mobilising finance; and Working together to deliver…

Securing global net zero: Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets (NDCs) that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to accelerate the phaseout of coal, encourage investment in renewables, curtail deforestation and speed up the switch to electric vehicles.

Adapting to protect communities: The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects. At COP 26, we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, put warning systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and lives.

Mobilising finance: To realise our first two goals, developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year. International financial institutions must play their part and we need to work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

Work together to deliver: We can only rise to the challenges of climate change by working together. At COP26 we must finalise the Paris Rulebook (the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement). And, we have to turn our ambitions into action by accelerating collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society to deliver on our climate goals faster.

Why is it so much important now?

The targets announced in Paris would result in warming well above 3 degrees C by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. If we continue as we are, temperatures will carry on rising, bringing even more catastrophic flooding, bush fires, extreme weather and destruction of species.

We have made progress in recent months to bend the temperature curve closer to 2 degrees C; but the science shows that much more must be done to keep 1.5 degrees C in reach. The world needs to halve emissions over the next decade and reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century – if we are to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees C. As part of the Paris Agreement, every country agreed to communicate or update their emissions reduction targets – their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – every five years to reflect their highest possible ambition and a progression over time.

These targets set out how far countries plan to reduce emissions across their entire economy and/or in specific sectors. 2020 marked the first of these five year cycles. This means that countries are expected to update their 2030 targets before we meet in Glasgow. We are calling on all countries to update them – so that they are in line with holding temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. It is especially important that
developed countries and the largest emitters take the lead. While targets are important, they must translate into action, fast. Which is why developed countries must rapidly phase out coal power, and all countries should commit to not opening or financing any new coal-fired power stations across the world.

At the same time, we must work together to provide developing countries with better support to deliver clean energy to their citizens. Forests play a vital role in removing carbon from the air. Protecting them is critical if we are going to meet our climate goals, and right now they are still being lost at the rate of a football pitch every few seconds. We are encouraging countries to work together to reform the global trade in agricultural commodities (like beef, soy and palm oil) so that sustainable production is rewarded, helping farmers to make a better living while forests are protected. And finally, we need to clean up our air and reduce carbon emissions by switching to driving zero emission cars, vans and trucks.

The UK will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Countries with major car markets should follow this lead. If we send a strong signal to the industry, investment will shift more quickly to new, clean technologies, and all countries will be able to enjoy the benefits sooner.

(Based on information from the United Nations Climate Change and the UK Government.)

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