What is COP26? & other related Questions

In this article, I look at COP26 billed as the global climate change summit will take place from 1 – 12 November in Glasgow. Anyone struggling to understand what is COP26 and why it is important will benefit from this episode as these vital questions will be answered.

So, by now, you may already be aware that COP26 is expected to be held in Glasgow, Scotland starting first of November at the end of the two weeks on 12 November after it was rescheduled from November 2020 due to the rising COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there are vital questions that are begging to be answered. So, here goes:

What is COP26?
COP26 sounds a strangle title to give to such an globally important meeting.

The ‘COP’ is a global summit on the climate change held by the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the international treaty with an objective to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, primarily by stabilising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The summit is known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP for short.

The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995 and has been held every year since save for 2020, when it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic & this year’s meeting will be the 26th annual summit, which is why it is call “COP26”.

What is “pre-COP”?
As a prelude to each Conference of the Parties, a preparatory meeting is held about a month before, called, the “Pre-COP”. The purpose of this meeting is to provide a selected group of countries with an informal setting to discuss and exchange views on some key political aspects of the negotiations to offer, to the extent possible, a political guidance for subsequent negotiations.

The Pre-COP will be held between 30 September to 2 October and will attended by 35 to 40 countries, representatives of the UNFCCC Secretariat, the chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies of the Convention and a number of stakeholders share a common interest in combating climate change.

Additionally, other a number of global events will support the run-up to COP26, such as:

Who will attend?
Nearly all of the countries in the world are party to the UNFCCC. Originally, there are approximately, 200 world leaders and 30,000 delegates were expected to attend, take part in discussions, report back on progress since the 2015 Paris Agreement, and make further decisions on how to reduce GHG emissions and combat the impact that climate change is already having.

Let’s hope that the ongoing travel and capacity restrictions will be relaxed following the reduction of COVID-19 cases with the hope is that world leaders will still attend for key in person meetings & we can, all, watch the events unfold.

Why is COP26 important?
For me, there are three reason, why COP26 is important.

Firstly, COP26 will be the first time since the Paris Agreement in 2015 that countries upgrade their pledges on tackling emissions reductions, these are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. More about Nationally Determined Contributions will be covered in a further episode.

Secondly, the previous COP25 held in Madrid in 2019 failed to reach consensus in many key areas. With its many unresolved issues, decisions were pushed forward for resolution at COP26. So, COP26 will be important for renewing the international effort on climate change.

Finally, COP26 will see the return of the United States to the negotiating table with President Biden making action to tackle climate change as one of the early priorities for the new Administration including concrete leadership and action by returning the United States to the Paris Agreement, after its withdrawal in 2019.

What actions can we expect?
The COP26 summit is expected to delivery on four goals

1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
Here, countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

In order to meet, these stretching targets, countries will need to:

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

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
As the climate is already changing, and, is expected that, it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At COP26 it is intended that countries will need to work together to enable and encourage actions for countries affected by climate change, such as the protection and restoration of ecosystems & build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives

3. Mobilise finance to deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.

Here, international financial institutions must play their part by working towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver
With recognition, that countries can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

At COP26, the sub-goals will be to finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) & to accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

And, for greater Public Engagement: there is likely to be an overwhelming public response to the summit and increasingly pressing calls for global action. This includes increasingly vocal young people, with specific note of the Youth4Climate event being planned for the pre-COP in Italy. 

Further information on the issues presented in this article are available from the COP26, Pre-COP and UNFCCC websites.


We should, all, hope that COP26 goes ahead in November 2021 with renewed energy to deal with the important opportunities to deliver on the Paris Agreement commitment for “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

In the run-up to the COP26 summit, I will aim to provide other articles to help in understanding climate change and the actions that you can take, both as an Environmental Manager or Consultant & as an individual.

If this article has helped to advance your understanding of the COP26 summit, please leave a comment in the box below, if this article has help you.

If you enjoyed this article, you should check out our YouTube Channel – EMSmastery, where you can watch our videos, such as our video accompanying this article on What is COP26? & other related Questions and subscribe in our YouTube channel for new videos released each week.

#COP26, #UNFCCC, #EMSmastery

Share this article on Social Media:

Leave a Reply