What is COP26 and why should I care about it?

This November, the UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow – but what actually is COP26 and why should we care about it?

COP, which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’, refers to the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and this year’s conference marks the 26th annual event.

It’s a chance for experts to come together to agree on coordinated action to tackle climate change and deliver on the Paris Agreement – which sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

Dr Richard Hodgkins, a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography in Loughborough University’s School of Social Sciences and Humanities, discusses the importance of COP26 and limiting warming in a new Loughborough University video.

“We’ve all seen the effects of extreme weather events over the past few months”, Dr Hodgkins says, “We’ve seen terrible fires and terrible floods affecting all kinds of people in different parts of the world and this has happened with global warming of around 1.2°C, compared to the pre-industrial level.

“The aim of COP is not to exceed a 1.5°C world. A 1.5°C world is much safer than a 2°C world.

“A world that has warmed 1.5°C by 2100, would put several hundred million fewer people around the whole world at risk of extreme weather events and effects like drought, floods, storms, and long-term loss of water resources than would a 2°C world. 

“In climate and weather terms, the world is already very close to that limit, hence the urgency of the negotiations and it's agreed now that the global community needs to halve global emissions by 2030 to stand a chance of hitting that 1.5°C figure.

“The main purpose of the Glasgow COP, this year, is to negotiate pledges, targets, and more specifically the means and process by which all the nations are going to keep their emissions at such a level that by the end of the century we’re not over 1.5°C of warming.

“The stakes are really very high.” 

Of what hosting the conference means for the UK, Dr Hodgkins said: “There is a lot at stake for the UK hosting such a high-profile meeting, there’s also a great deal of opportunity for the UK if it can pull off a really successful meeting.

“If COP26 can be shown, in any substantial way, to have kick-started the decarbonisation process that the Paris Agreement aims for, then that will be a tremendous boost for the UK.

“It will have pulled off something that will be seen as a tremendous global diplomatic triumph.”

For more information on Loughborough University’s COP26 PR campaign, click here

Notes for editors

Press release reference number:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.