COP26: Critical summit for action to fight global climate change

World leaders gathering in Glasgow to discuss cutting fossil fuel usage across the planet to curb global warming.

COP26: Critical summit for action to fight global climate change

Next month’s COP26 global UN summit in Glasgow, Scotland is being called a pivotal turning point in tackling global warming, one of the greatest threats that has ever faced humanity.

The summit will be the first to assess if the world has made any progress since the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, a pact Turkey signed onto earlier this year, to much praise.

At that summit, countries agreed to work together to reduce greenhouse gases, accelerate renewable energy production, and cut global warming to "well below" 2C, limiting it to 1.5C if possible.

Yet the commitments laid out in Paris are still far away from becoming a reality.

In light of this, many believe that COP26 has an extraordinary urgency since in recent years natural disasters have been affecting more and more regions across the globe and millions of people, facing storms, floods, and wildfires.

So this year’s event is being seen as momentous, with world leaders and negotiators, government representatives, business leaders, and members of the public sitting down for 12 days of talks on climate change policy.

Great expectations

One of the main metrics for success in Glasgow will be as many governments as possible submitting new and more ambitious climate action plans towards lowering global warming to the 1.5C benchmark.

The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius is significant: each degree increase carries irreversible risks to people, communities, and ecosystems.

This seemingly tiny but yawning divide is why one of the main aims of the Glasgow summit is to “keep the 1.5-degree goal alive.”

Another goal is channeling funds to fight climate change to developing countries.

In UN climate talks, rich countries had previously committed $100 billion a year by 2020 to help underdeveloped countries tackle the effects of climate change.

But this goal has not yet been achieved, as a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), last month showed that in 2019, the latest year for which data is available, only about $80 billion was enabled.

So a tangible outcome on this issue is also expected from the summit.

Although no one can predict what will come from the summit, it is clear that expectations are running higher than ever.

What is COP?

COP, an abbreviation standing for "Conference of the Parties," will be attended by countries that have signed onto the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The numbered COP gatherings are hosted by a different country each year, with the very first – COP1 – held in Berlin in 1995.

COP26 was originally scheduled to take place last November in Glasgow but was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now is being hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy.

The last conference, COP25, was held in Madrid, Spain, in November 2019, and ended with many issues unresolved, but an agreement was reached on cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Which world leaders will attend?

Over 100 world leaders are expected to attend the conference, but the number of actually confirmed attendees is so far smaller.

Along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leaders who have confirmed their attendance includes US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The presidents of Russia and China – two countries that are among the world’s top five main sources of greenhouse gases – have reportedly confirmed that they would not attend the event.

Queen Elizabeth II, 95, was scheduled to appear at the summit, but Buckingham Palace said that after an overnight hospital stay last week for health checks, her doctors have advised her to rest.