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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Explained: COP26 climate conference and why it is important

This year marks the 26th Conference of Parties (thus the name COP26) and will be held in the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 26, 2021 9:55:34 am
People take part in the 'Global march for climate justice' while environment ministers meet ahead of Glasgow's COP26 meeting, in Milan, Italy, October 2, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Guglielmo Mangiapane, File)

The UK will host the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference from October 31 to November 12. The event will see leaders from more than 190 countries, thousands of negotiators, researchers and citizens coming together to strengthen a global response to the threat of climate change. It is a pivotal movement for the world to come together and accelerate the climate action plan.

This year marks the 26th Conference of Parties (thus the name COP26) and will be held in the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

The conference comes months after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its assessment report on Earth’s climate, highlighting heat waves, droughts, extreme rainfall and sea-level rise in the coming decades.

Formation of COP

The Conference of Parties comes under the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was formed in 1994. The UNFCCC was established to work towards “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”

It laid out a list of responsibilities for the member states which included:

* Formulating measures to mitigate climate change
* Cooperating in preparing for adaptation to the impact of climate change
* Promoting education, training and public awareness related to climate change

COP1 to COP25

COP members have been meeting every year since 1995. The UNFCCC has 198 parties including India, China and the USA.

The first conference (COP1) was held in 1995 in Berlin. At COP3 held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the famous Kyoto Protocol was adopted. It commits the member states to pursue limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It entered into force on 16 February 2005 and there are 192 Parties in the Kyoto Protocol.

Swiss artist and activist, Dan Acher’s aerial climate installation “We Are Watching” flies above the Scottish Parliament ahead of COP26 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, October 12, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Russell Cheyne)

India hosted the eighth COP from October 23 to November 1, 2002 in New Delhi. The conference laid out seven measures including, ‘strengthening of technology transfer… in all relevant sectors, including energy, transport…and the promotion of technological advances through research and development…and the strengthening of institutions for sustainable development.’

One of the most important conferences, COP21 took place from November 30 to December 11, 2015, in Paris, France. Member countries agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.’

COP26 goals

According to the UNFCCC, COP26 will work towards four goals:

1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

At the National Conference on COP26 Charter of Actions, held on October 13, Natalie Toms, Chief Economist, Climate and Development Counsellor at the British High Commission in India said: “The UK has already committed to bringing 78% emission reductions by 2035 and is on the road to net-zero by 2050. India has also taken important steps with its 450 gigaWatt renewables target and national hydrogen mission. Different countries will have different pathways, and we recognise the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.”

The UNFCCC recommends that countries ‘accelerate the phase-out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables’ to meet this goal.

At the National Conference on COP26 Charter of Actions, Navroz K. Dubash, Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, detailed what India could do to reach its targets:

* It is time for India to update its Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. (NDCs detail the various efforts taken by each country to reduce the national emissions)

* Sector by sector plans are needed to bring about development. We need to decarbonise the electricity, transport sector and start looking at carbon per passenger mile.

* Aggressively figure out how to transition our coal sector

“Time may have come for India to announce that we will not be building any more coal-fired power plants beyond what is in the pipeline. India also needs to ramp up the legal and institutional framework of climate change,” he adds.

A demonstrator holds up a sign as he attends a Fridays for Future climate strike in Milan, Italy ahead of Glasgow’s COP26 meeting. (Reuters Photo: Flavio Lo Scalzo)

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

Countries will work together to ‘protect and restore ecosystems and build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.’

3. Mobilise finance

“To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020,” notes the UNFCCC.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Secretary of State for International Trade said in a release: “With the impacts of COVID-19, it is vitally important we work together to scale up finance from all sources and improve access (to finance). We must push for all countries to have National Adaptation Plans in place and to produce Adaptation Communications sharing best practices to help turn ambition into action.”

4. Work together to deliver

Another important task at the COP26 is to ‘finalise the Paris Rulebook’. Leaders will work together to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

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