COP 26 - All you need to know

From October 31st to November 12th delegates from 197 countries will convene in Glasgow for the U N climate talks known as COP 26. This will be the 26th year the Conference Of Parties has taken place, hence the name. COP is the decision- making section of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and was established nearly 30 years ago to deal with the increasing threat of climate change. In recent years we have all seen the devastating effects of global warming; droughts, violent storms, extreme temperatures and rising sea levels present an ever-increasing threat to our planet and all forms of life it sustains. Human activity is destroying the Earth and decisions made at COP 26 will, if acted upon, hopefully stem the tide of destructive human activity such as the use of fossil fuels and extensive deforestation.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change humans have caused unprecedented and irreversible change to our climate. Acidity in the oceans is increasing as the sea is being diluted by the melting ice caps, deforestation, on a scale never seen before, is resulting in carbon dioxide levels being at their highest. Heatwaves, droughts, flooding and forest fires are all adding to the mayhem.

This is why COP26 is so important. Every nation on Earth has to be represented, either in person or online. The UK and Italy are joint presidents and the UK, as host, has the bigger role. At the 2015 meeting in Paris it was agreed to cut emissions to limit global warming, the aim being less than 2c and hopefully 1.5c. Every country was asked to contribute to emissions reductions and set out their targets for doing so, these are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These targets must be updated every five years. Canada, U.S. the EU and UK have submitted improved plans as requested but many of the largest emitters, including China, India and Saudi Arabia missed the deadline.  Similarly, Australia simply used old targets and Brazil even lessened its targets. The UK wants this year’s summit to be the one that “consigns coal to history” and Italy is trying to get the same assurance from the G20. This is being resisted by China, Russia and India. The UK has proposed a 2040 deadline for the sale of the last petrol car and is hoping to speed up a switch to electric vehicles. To help combat the destruction of forests the UK, US and Norway have launched a Leaf Coalition, aiming to provide $1 billion to cut emissions from deforestation.

Whilst the politicians have the means to hopefully achieve these huge goals we can all do our bit in different ways. We can eat more plants and less meat which will significantly reduce carbon emissions and buy local produce to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Avoid using plastic, especially single use, and use sustainable, re-usable cups and straws for hot and cold drinks. It’s estimated 6.5 million trees are felled annually to produce single use coffee cups alone. Using cups made of plant fibre such as bamboo will combat this, as will supporting organisations such as Onetreeplanted. We can turn down our thermostats and switch to a renewable energy supplier.

We can all help to save our planet.

We have to.