What does COP mean?
C.O.P. stands for Conference Of Parties. These parties are the 197 countries that have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In 1994 the UNFCCC recognised there was a problem with climate change and bound member states to act in the interests of human safety even in the face of scientific uncertainty.
The objective of the Convention is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations "at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system."
It states that "such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner."
As they are the source of most past and current greenhouse gas emissions, industrialised countries are expected to do the most to cut emissions.
What is COP 26?
This is the 26th annual conference, hence COP26 (@cop26uk), and is taking place in Glasgow over the next two weeks. The UK as President is working to reach a global agreement on how to tackle climate change.
COP21 took place in Paris in 2015. There, for the first time ever, every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2'C and aim for 1.5'C: The Paris Agreement.
Why is limiting global average temperature change to 1.5'C important?
COP26 goals include global net zero carbon emissions by mid-century and keeping an increase of 1.5' C within reach. It may not seem much, but that fraction of a degree makes a big difference.
As @theclimatecouncil infographic shows, the loss of plant species will double and the loss of insect species will triple with a from a 1.5'C to 2' C increase. We risk losing almost all of our coral reefs. 37% of the global population will face extreme heat every 5 years. And sea-ice-free summers in the Artic will be every 10 years.
How are we tracking?
With current pledges we are on track for a 1.9 - 3'C global average temperature increase. Current policies put us at 2.1 - 3.9'C increase! This is why climate activists are frustrated. We need to act now (well, really 30+ years ago).
In the run up to COP 26, and even on it's opening day, Boris Johnson appears to be saying all the right things:
"This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words. Words that sounds great, but so far, has led to no action.
So I for one, will be the Realistic Optimist I always am, and look on, being encouraged by the words I hear, but looking for the action, from our leaders, and from all of us, to make the changes needed.
I hope that gives you a good initial overview of COP 26. But of course, if you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to shout. I'm always happy to chat.
As always, with love, from my family to yours,
References & Further Reading
What is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?
Greta Thunberg mocks world leaders' words at Youth4Climate
Climate Action Tracker (CAT)
Three degrees of global warming is quite plausible and truly disastrous
The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees warming
What do we need to achieve at COP26?