COP stands for Conference of the Parties. It refers to an annual meeting of the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995. COP26 is the 26th COP.
What is the purpose of COP26?
First, most people will have heard of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015. This agreement legally bound nations to limit global temperature rise to “well-below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to try to limit the rise to 1.5C. Under the Paris Agreement nations are committed to generating plans to reduce their emissions – these are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC’s). Countries agreed to renew these plans every five years. COP26 would have marks the first 5 years after the Paris Agreement, it has been postponed since last year due to the global pandemic. It is however still the time for countries to update their emission reduction plans.
Second, the Paris Agreement commitments do not do enough to limit global temperature rise to only 1.5C, as in actuality it is predicted the pledges would still lead to a 3C temperature rise. Many countries non-binding emission reduction, or in developing countries cases emissions curbing targets, in terms of “by 2030”. Illustrating how vital the decade running up to 2030 is. Therefore, COP26 is the keystone to kicking off more progressive emission reduction strategies to ensure that targets are ambitious enough and that effective strategies to meet these targets are in place.
Concerns Over Underrepresentation of Global South
A key element of COP’s is that it is one of the only places that developing countries, particularly those in the Global South, can be present in negotiations with developed countries around climate change. Concerns have been raised over barriers to negotiations of those from the Global South: the cost of attendance, travel and accommodation, as well as issues of vaccine inequality and restriction for Red Listed countries. Many countries in the Global South are on the frontline of climate change, with many already suffering from, for example, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, as well as numerous other climate related issues. Several of these countries are concerned that they will be underrepresented and therefore their needs will not be prioritized.
It is important to remember most of the emissions are generated by developed nations, yet the majority of the effects are felt by developing nations, it is therefore an imperative for these nations to be at the negotiating table.