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