Photo Credit: Iberdrola

The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was published in August 2021, warned that human activity is causing temperatures to rise unequivocally and that climate change is accelerating, intensifying, and spreading to all regions of the planet. 

IPCC experts have explained that climate change has intensified extreme phenomena such as floods, droughts, severe heat waves, the reduction and extinction of species, or the melting of the ice sheet at the poles, with the consequent rise in sea level. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has described the report as “a code red for humanity.”

Photo Credit: Climate Action Tracker

There are already many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and they have been there for quite some time, so even in the most ambitious scenario of reducing emissions by countries, the world will experience an increase in temperatures for at least half of this century. However, there is still a small window of opportunity. 

If countries could reach a scenario of carbon neutrality by 2050, the rise in temperatures could remain below 1.5 degrees during the second half of the 21st century.  During the first two weeks of November (1st to 12th), national leaders and negotiators will meet at the COP26 conference to focus on discussing how to try to get as close to that goal as possible.

COP is the acronym for Conference of the Parties, the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty of 197 agents (196 countries and the EU) agreed in 1994. Since this will be the 26th COP conference, the number 26 was added to the acronym for the upcoming summit, which is taking place this year in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. During the first days of the conference, around 120 heads of state (including President Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron) and their representatives will meet to show their political commitment to slowing climate change.

Soon the delegates of each country, which are usually headed by their Minister of the Environment, will begin a few days of negotiations, acts, and bilateral meetings to make their positions clear, adopt new commitments, and adhere to new initiatives. All this activity is supported by months of previous discussions, political documents, and proposals, the latter elaborated by representatives of each country, by UN personnel, or by external experts.

Non-governmental organizations and business leaders also attend COP26, and it also has an open-to-public section that includes sessions focused on topics such as the impact of climate change on small island states, forests, or agriculture. This public aspect also offers exhibitions and other events. The meeting concludes with the writing of a text that collects the results, and that must have the agreement of all countries. 

This year’s COP26 will be one of the most important summits the UK has hosted and is described as the biggest climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement. The last COP, held in Madrid in 2019, ended many of the big problems still unresolved. Guterres has already publicly expressed his disappointment with the outcome of COP25, and concerning COP26 the signs are not promising.

Queen Elizabeth II on November 2nd, asked world leaders to make a “common cause” against climate change and the “insurmountable problems” that it brings, at one point, she stressed, in which “words” should be transferred to “acts”. She expressed this message through recorded video as she was unable to attend the event due to a medical recommendation. Most nations are still facing the global pandemic that has shown us the devastating effects of a lack of preparedness and the interplay between our planet, people, and prosperity. This summer the world has witnessed natural disasters in countries like Spain, Brazil, and the United States that are a stark reminder of the reality of climate change. But with decisive and collaborative action, rampant global warming could still be stopped. The results of COP26 are vital to get it on track and avoid Earth-altering changes. It is also expected to act as a catalyst to drive forward collective climate action and amplify the voices of those already working on it.

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