What is COP26 and why does it matter?

Written by Lori Campbell on 30th Sep 2021

This November, Glasgow will be at the heart of the global fight against the climate crisis when it hosts the ‘COP26’ talks. Here we explain what COP26 actually is, and why it matters.

What is COP26?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and will be attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994.

The 2021 meeting will be the 26th meeting, which is why it’s called COP26.

It will see world leaders and climate experts gather to discuss how to lower global temperatures and prevent irreversible climate disaster.

When is it?

The conference was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. It will now be held from October 31 to November 12 in the SEC, Scotland’s largest exhibition centre. The event was predicted to bring up to 30,000 people from more than 200 countries to Glasgow, but the pandemic may mean a reduction in numbers.

The three main parts of the conference are:

  • negotiations between countries and experts
  • exhibitions and fringe events
  • climate talks and events for the public held around Glasgow

What are the goals of COP26?

COP26 has four main goals:

1. Secure global ‘net zero’ (where emissions into the atmosphere are no greater than those removed) by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

Countries will be asked to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

COP26 aims to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change (particularly those most immediately at risk , such as in the Global South) to:

  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives

3. Mobilise finance

Perhaps most importantly – as it will enable COP26 to deliver on the first two goals – developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100 billion (£74 billion) in climate finance per year. They had previously committed to doing this by 2020, but have so far fallen short. Last month, the US, which was responsible for most of the shortfall, committed to doubling its climate aid.

International financial institutions will be pressed to release the trillions in private and public sector finance required to achieve global net zero.

4. Work together to avert climate disaster

Overarching goals of COP26 are to:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make up the Paris Agreement – see below)
  • speed up action to tackle the climate crisis through governments, businesses and civil society working together

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 parties at COP21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015. It says that nations must:

  • Reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gasses produced and increase renewable types of energy like wind, solar and wave power
  • Keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to try to limit it to 1.5C
  • Review progress made on the agreement every five years
  • Spend $100 billion (£74 billion) a year in climate finance to help poorer countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

What can we expect from COP26?

COP26 will be biggest summit the UK has ever hosted. It is considered as the most significant climate event since the Paris Agreement.

Presidents and prime ministers from around the world will be reporting back on progress since the Paris Agreement and, hopefully, set out bold long and short-term plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late.

Look out for our COP26 during the event, when we will bring you the latest news and developments.

Don't miss the good stuff!

Sign up for the newest and best green money deals in your inbox every week