Here’s why COP26 concerns all of us
By Jo Hand, Co-Founder, Impact Director, Giki Zero | September 29, 2021
As we get closer to the pivotal climate conference in Glasgow, COP26, political activity and media coverage increases, but this huge, global, political event can feel far removed from our daily lives.
Despite this, the outcomes of COP26 will have major impacts on many our lives — and we can all actively play our parts in it.
What is COP26?
Every year United Nations Climate Change conferences are held to assess progress in dealing with climate change. These meetings are called COPs (which stands for Conference of the Parties). Each annual meeting has its own number. The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995 and, in November, Glasgow will host the 26th COP.
This is a crucial meeting because the targets announced at the Paris COP meeting (number 21) in 2015 would result in warming of around 3°C by 2100. This would bring far more flooding, wildfires, extreme weather and species extinction than we’ve seen in recent years. Scientists and the political community were aware of this at the time, and as a result, within the Paris Agreement of 2015 there is a system whereby countries agree to restate increasingly ambitious targets (called the ratchet mechanism).
Five years on from the Paris Agreement, new commitments must be pledged. One of the main aims of COP26 is to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. As a result, these commitments need to be aligned with this aim and must translate into real action.
How will COP26 affect our lives?
There are two key ways that the decisions agreed at COP26 will affect many of us. Firstly, national governments are due to make updated national commitments to reduce carbon emissions. In order to deliver, many of these commitments will need to be implemented through national policies, which will affect citizens in each country.
Secondly, the agreement reached at COP26 is a crucial milestone for the direction of travel of global carbon emissions this decade. The science is clear: we must cut emissions in half, at the very least, this decade to keep temperatures below 1.5C. If we have bold commitments, which national governments then deliver on, we can hope to see a stemming of temperature rise over the coming decades. If politicians fail to reach bold agreements, and emissions continue their current rise, we will likely see more wildfires, floods and climate devastation across the globe — causing disruption to billions of lives.
How can you get involved in COP26?
These global goals appear distant at a high level, but in fact, all four aims of COP26 resonate within our own lives and our own choices.
The first goal is to keep 1.5C within sight. To achieve this, we will need to change many of our common habits and choices, for example what we eat, how we heat our homes, travel and invest our money. That’s because the average carbon footprint in wealthy nations is approximately 10 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per person per year, twice as much as the global average. To keep temperatures to no more than 1.5C, carbon footprints need to reduce to 2.5 tonnes per person per year by 2030. In our Guide to COP26 we detail how everyone can get involved in helping to achieve this goal.
Further COP26 goals include mobilizing finance, protecting nature and natural systems, and working together. We can support all these goals through our own choices too.
Whatever happens at COP26, and however distant it feels, we can all play a role in achieving the vital aims set out by the COP26 team. Achieving these aims are a crucial part of keeping the hope of a healthier, safer, zero carbon and resilient world alive.