In late October, the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Glasgow, Scotland.
Hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, COP26 will host leaders from nearly 200 nations, business executives, climate experts, campaigners, and other groups. The summit aims to accelerate actions towards the aims of the Paris Agreement, signed at COP21 in 2015.
The central ambition of the Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature rise in this century well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius, thereby mitigating further climate change.
The talks in Glasgow, which run from 31 October – 12 November, couldn't come at a more crucial time. This past year has seen deadly wildfires and floods in many parts of the world and has left little doubt that climate change is real, is happening now, and is touching all corners of the planet.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that 2021 would likely rank among the top 10 warmest years on record. According to its July climate report, that month earned the unenviable distinction as the world’s hottest month ever recorded.
The global mean temperature for the month was about 1.66 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 July average. NOAA also reported that Arctic sea ice coverage in July was the fourth-smallest in the 43-year record. Only July 2012, 2019, and 2020, it said, have had a smaller sea ice extent.
In August, a state-of-the-science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) warned that the world must slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least half this decade to stave off the more devastating impacts from climate change.
The report warned that many of these impacts are unprecedented and, while some of the shifts in climate are in motion now, some changes, such as continued sea-level rise, are already ‘irreversible’ for centuries to millennia ahead.
Commenting on the IPPC report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was nothing less than "a code red for humanity,” adding that “the alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable.” He appealed to world leaders to act, warning that humanity was on track for a climate "catastrophe."
Ahead of COP26, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an address to the UN general assembly in New York on 22 September said that COP26 must be a “turning point for humanity.”
“We are not talking about stopping the rise in temperatures – it is alas too late for that – but to restrain that growth to 1.5 degrees. And that means we need to pledge collectively to achieve carbon neutrality – net zero – by the middle of the century. And that will be an amazing moment if we can do it,” he said.
In his usual rambunctious style, Johnson claimed that the Muppets character Kermit the Frog was wrong when he sang: “It’s not easy being green.”
He went on to highlight the technological developments that have made green energy cheaper and more accessible and warned that unless action is taken urgently, “we will have made this beautiful planet effectively uninhabitable – not just for us but for many other species.”