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ClientEarth Communications

15th October 2021

Climate accountability
Climate finance

What you need to know about COP26

This November, the UK is set to host this crucial event. But what is COP26, and why does it matter? We answer all your questions below.

What is COP26?

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change. Taking place from 1st November to 12th November in Glasgow, it will bring together 197 countries to present their updated plans to reduce carbon emissions.

Why does it matter?

The past decade was the hottest on record. In the last 12 months, we have seen record temperatures in the US, Canada and Antarctica, unprecedented wildfires in Turkey, Greece, Italy, the US and Australia, and extreme flooding across Europe, Africa and China. It is now an “established fact” that such extreme weather events are the result of human activity.

This year’s COP26 is six years on from the landmark Paris Agreement (agreed at COP21), which aimed to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. A total of 197 countries signed up to the Agreement, and now world leaders will meet again to increase their ambition in what many see as the world’s last hope for meeting the Paris Agreement goals.

All countries have been asked to come forward with plans to reduce carbon emissions that are as ambitious as possible – these plans, known as ‘nationally determined contributions’, must align with reaching net-zero by 2050.

What needs to happen at COP26?

COP26 is a final opportunity for political leaders to deliver. The UK Government has set clear and ambitious goals for the COP26 meeting in Glasgow:

  1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century, and keep 1.5 degrees within reach;
  2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats;
  3. Mobilise $100 billion of climate finance each year to support goals 1 and 2;
  4. Finalise the Paris Rulebook that will make the Paris Agreement operational

If the UK Government can deliver on these goals, it will have played its part in putting the world back on course to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

What do ClientEarth want to see?

We have seen encouraging ambition on climate commitments in recent months. However, if COP26’s goals are to be met, and countries are to deliver on the legally binding commitments made under the Paris Agreement, that ambition must continue to grow. We want world leaders to seize this opportunity and raise their ambition for climate action, provide the money needed to make the transition to net-zero, and put their commitments into law –  because without such binding commitments, our chances of a future in which our planet doesn’t warm beyond 1.5 degrees are zero.

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