COP26, also known as the “UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties” is the next big event regarding our global climate, and arguably our future!
COP26 is the follow up to COP21, the conference responsible for establishing the Paris Agreement back in 2015. The Paris Agreement was a landmark event for our climate and built the foundation towards much needed global cooperation in the fight against a climate disaster. It was the first legally binding international treaty for the climate and a whopping 196 countries (that’s nearly all of them) signed it! It was incredible to witness 196 countries all agree to make themselves responsible to limit average temperature rise by 2.0 degrees Celsius, and make an effort to stay under 1.5 C°. Needless to say, getting that many countries to agree on anything is challenging, now imagine the effort needed to make them sign a legally binding contract forcing them to change “business as usual”. The agreement wouldn’t have been possible without the herculean effort of UN Climate Change Leader Christiana Figueres, who will hopefully be remembered in time as one of our greatest climate heroes.
Unfortunately, although Christiana’s efforts made it possible for us to avoid a climate disaster, we still have a long way to go with our global climate policies. According to OurWorldInData.org (2021) even if all countries followed through with the policies they put in place during the Paris agreement we would still reach about 2.7 C° of warming, a scary figure. During the COP21 we still didn’t know how crucial it was to stay under 1.5 C° of warming, but in 2019 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who form the scientific consensus on climate change released a report analyzing the difference that half a degree more could make on our lives, you can find the complicated report here or watch a video of someone explaining it to you below. Nevertheless, each fraction of a degree makes a difference.
Now you know the COP history and why they are so crucial for our planet. Earlier this August, the IPCC sounded the alarm with their most worrying report yet: “Code Red for Humanity”. The report said we have already reached 1.1 extra degrees of warming compared to pre-industrial times and will reach 1.5 just with the carbon we have already emitted. Thankfully there is hope, and we can still limit the devastation with radical, global systemic change today. The COP26 is simply the conference where our world leaders will decide what kind of action they will take, and it is our biggest, maybe even our last chance, to avoid a tsunami of preventable catastrophic events.