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Ecotricity explains: COP26

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By Olly Rose
20 Oct 2021

The world is facing a climate emergency with extreme weather events, flooding and wildfires becoming more common with devastating consequences for both people and the natural world.

cop 26

We’ve known for decades that fixing the climate crisis isn’t something one country can do on its own. There have been several international agreements on climate, with annual COP meetings about the measures that need to be taken but it can all get a little confusing – so read on to learn everything you need to know about COP26.

What is COP26?
Technically speaking, COP26 is the 26th meeting of the UN Climate Change ‘Conference of the Parties’ to the ‘United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’.

In practice, it’s the annual meeting between more than 190 countries of the world to talk about the climate crisis and what to do about it.

When and where is COP26 being hosted?

This year’s meeting is being held in Glasgow, 31 October – 12 November. It should have happened last year but was delayed because of Covid.

The UK holds the G7 Presidency for 2021, while Italy holds the G20 Presidency. The two countries have come together to take on the joint Presidency of COP26.

Italy has hosted preparatory events in Milan, including Pre-COP. This was attended by 40-50 countries (30 Sep – 2 Oct) and was the final official chance to shape the detail of the negotiations in COP26 itself.

Youth4Climate was also held in Milan (28 – 30 September) and featured around 400 young people from 186 countries who discussed the key things we need to do to fight the climate crisis.

Who can attend COP26?
You don’t need to be an official delegate to attend the conference.

COPs are divided into Blue and Green Zones, with the official stuff happening in the Blue Zone. The Green Zone is for the public, with organisers promising a variety of art and music, workshops, presentations and technology demonstrations.

What are the aims of COP26?
COP26 has four stated goals on its agenda:

1. Reach global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach by accelerating the phase-out of coal, speeding up the switch to electric vehicles and encouraging investment in renewables.

2. Protect communities and natural habitats through local measures.

3. Organise finance of at least $100bn per year to achieve the first two goals.

4. Finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and increase collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

How important is COP26?
There’s a lot of pressure on the 12 days of talks at COP26 because it’s six years since the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement was signed by every country in 2015, agreeing to work to limit global warming to under 2 degrees and aiming for 1.5 degrees. They also agreed to return every five years with an updated plan for achieving these goals – COP26 is the first summit where this will happen.

The updated plans are crucial. The actions agreed in Paris don’t even come close to limiting warming to the 1.5 degree target, so much more needs to be done – it’s vital that effective action is taken and not just talked about over the next eight years up to 2030.

A lot of talking and negotiation is done between countries in advance of each COP. The conference itself is - hopefully - where deadlocks between countries are broken, progress is made and agreements are announced.

Credit: Moniruzzaman Sazal / Climate Visuals Countdown
Moniruzzaman Sazal / Climate Visuals Countdown

Why is the 1.5 degree target so vital?
According to the UN’s own figures, the world needs to halve emissions over the next decade and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, which itself has serious consequences for the climate.

Every fraction of a degree is important, as we get closer to 2 degrees there would be far more severe impacts on both people and nature. A third of humanity would suffer from severe heat, warm water coral reefs would die off, and it could trigger ice sheets to melt, leading to a dramatic and irreversible increase in sea levels.

What is Ecotricity doing to help?
As Britain’s greenest energy company, we’re aware that we need to go further than supplying green energy to our customers.

Our mission is to end fossil fuels and we’re doing that by spending 100% of our profits on building new sources of green energy, including windmills, solar parks and green gas mills – making sustainable gas from grass.

We’re also walking the walk - we were the first and only energy company to declare a climate emergency in 2019. Sustainability is there in everything we do and we’re aiming to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Find out more about our environmental commitments

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Climate Clock

The Climate Clock is a version of the Doomsday clock that has been running since 1947 - this tracks the risk of global man-made disaster, through man made technology (like nuclear weapons) - displaying the minutes and seconds left before midnight, when disaster strikes. The climate crisis is a small part of the calculations made.
The climate clock uses a similar approach, but, focuses only on the climate crisis - which is the biggest and most urgent existential threat we face.
"The Climate Clock is a countdown to the biggest man-made disaster we face - but also a measure by which we can track our progress - moving from fossil to renewable energy. It shows we have no time to lose - the clock is ticking…" Dale Vince, OBE.
Ecotricity is a sponsor of the Glasgow Climate Clock that will run every night until COP26.