COP26: why this year’s COP matters so much

By Mara Oct 21, 2021

We’re sure you have heard that the COP26 is only weeks away – but do you actually know what it is and why it matters so much?

COP26 stands for Conference of the Parties and is another name for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, which has happened every year since 1995.
The UK hosts this year’s COP26 in partnership with Italy, and it will take place from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow. The President is the British politician and Minister of State in the Cabinet Office Alok Sharma.

The event will bring together climate experts, campaigners, and representatives from over 200 countries to address the pressing problem of climate change. In a series of talks and events, they will discuss the changes that we need globally to tackle climate change and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Where is COP26 being held?

This year, COP26 will be hosted in Glasgow at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC).

There are two main sites for the event: the Blue Zone and the Green Zone. The former is where the official negotiations occur, bringing together the delegates and observers through discussions, exhibits and cultural activities.

The Green Zone is the area for the public to learn more about COP-related projects. Workshops, exhibitions, and discussion groups will help promote social action and conversations around climate change throughout the two weeks.

Several other events are closely adjacent to the main COP26 across the city. One of the main ones is the Sustainable Innovation Forum organised by Climate Action, a fully programmed hybrid event creating a virtual window into COP26. Moixa is partnering with Climate Action to support the event, and our team will be attending in person.
To join us and take part in this global platform enabling climate action, you can register for free.

Why is COP26 important?

Most experts believe this year’s COP26 has a unique urgency, mainly because it was postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

To understand why it’s necessary to look back to another COP. COP26 is being viewed as the successor to COP21, where the Paris Agreement was signed. For this reason, COP26 is seen as the summit to address what has and hasn’t been achieved since 2015 while setting concrete plans to reach the Paris Agreement targets.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty signed by almost all countries at COP21 in Paris in 2015. In the agreement, nearly 200 countries agreed to limit the global temperature rise to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational goal to keep it to 1.5C.

It is worth noting that the agreement is not fully legally binding, allowing all signatory nations to set their own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by either 2025 or 2030 through “Nationally Determined Contributions.” These targets will be reviewed every five years through a stocktake process.

Why is immediate action needed?

As the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently stated, we are running out of time to take action on the climate crisis. Their report from August 2021 says we’ll need to make some severe changes to cut emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5C. Climate experts have estimated that if we keep going at our current rate, the earth will heat up by 2.9C this century.

With this in mind, at COP26, leaders will look at whether enough has been done to lower emissions and limit warming since the Paris Agreement. They will be trying to answer how we can increase the speed of a global transition off fossil fuel and deal with economic and non-economic harms caused by climate change impacts that cannot be avoided through adaptation or mitigation.

Parties will also need to try and finalise the Paris Rulebook – the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational. Agreeing on what laws should govern international carbon markets – the ‘Article 6 negotiations’ – is expected to be particularly difficult.

At COP26, every country will have to lay out their ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

What do we need to achieve at COP26?

COP26 president Alok Sharma stated that there are five priority areas for the conference:

Energy transition: “Seizing the massive opportunities of cheaper renewables and storage.”

Accelerating the move to zero-carbon road transport: “By 2040, over half of the new car sales worldwide are projected to be electric.”

Adaptation and resilience: “Helping people, economies and the environment adapt and prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

Nature: “Safeguarding ecosystems, protecting natural habitats and keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.”

Finance: “We need to unleash the finance which will make all of this possible and power the shift to a zero-carbon economy.”

What you can do to join the fight against climate change

Has all this talk of fighting back against global warming got you wondering how you can help? The good news is that by working together, we can all make a difference in the fight against climate change. You can personally take several steps to reduce your carbon footprint and achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are some examples:

Drive less: Driving less is definitely one of the main actions you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. Choosing to walk or cycle instead of driving is an easy way to stay healthy while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Buy seasonal local food & reduce your meat consumption: Wherever possible, it’s best to buy local: try to buy seasonal products from your local vendors and markets. Moreover, as mass animal agriculture is considered one of the leading contributors to global warming, cutting down on the amount of meat you eat can have a huge impact on reducing your carbon footprint.

Cut your energy use & make your home more energy-efficient: improving your home’s energy efficiency – for example, by investing in energy-saving kitchen appliances and installing a solar PV system – can shrink your bills and cut your carbon footprint. Find out more tips in our guide.

Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle: if you want to be more sustainable, just remember these 4 Rs. The most environmentally friendly resources are the resources never used at all. Say no to single-use bags, packaging, straws and so on, and get into the habit of bringing along your own reusable replacements. It is also important to reduce your consumption, reuse what you already have and recycle what you no longer need.

Read more in our list of 5 ways to reduce your carbon footprint.