Why COP26 is a political summit you should actually care about

In just a couple of weeks, world leaders—as well as thousands of negotiators, government and business representatives, and citizens—will meet in Glasgow for COP26 to determine our collective fate.

Melodramatic much?

Sure, political summits are known for their hot air and staged photo opps. And this one won’t be lacking in those moments. But COP26 has to be different. The world’s counting on it.

What is COP26?

COP26 is a global United Nations summit about climate change and what countries are doing to tackle it.

Originally scheduled for November 2020, it was postponed to November this year because of the pandemic.

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. It’s an annual summit attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This meeting will be the 26th—hence why it’s called COP26.

Why is this year’s COP so important?

First, a bit of background:

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty signed by most countries at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

Its signatories agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to aim for 1.5 degrees.

How this goal would be achieved was left up to individual countries, who agreed to non-binding national targets called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs.

The problem is, the NDCs were never ambitious enough. The 3 degrees or more of warming they’d result in would create an eco disaster.

Thankfully, countries agreed to review their progress and make more ambitious plans every five years.

And those five years are up with COP26.

(For the eagle-eyed among you: Yes, the Paris Agreement was in 2015 so this should have happened last year. But, 2020, pandemic, etc etc.)

This next decade is crucial. Getting agreement from 196 countries isn’t easy. But unless we get some real commitments to get us closer to 1.5 degrees (2 degrees was so six years ago), we’re screwed.

Not melodramatic at all.

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