By Ashley Buschhorn
COP26 is the 26th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, from Sunday, Oct. 31, through Friday, Nov. 12. This could be a pivotal event for the future of climate change. The Conference of Parties, the COP, consists of world superpowers such as the U.S., U.K., China and Russia. Two of the world’s largest pollutants, Russia and Brazil, will participate in COP, but their presidents will not be in attendance. China, another one of the largest pollutants, has yet to announce if their President Xi Jinping will attend.
President Biden will be attending and has announced sweeping changes to how the U.S. will approach climate change, but those changes must be approved by Congress. Biden rejoins the U.N. climate talks after his predecessor, Donald Trump, pulled out of the Paris Agreement in November 2020. Biden has pledged that the U.S. will cut its emissions “50-52% from 2005 levels by 2030,” but these plans must pass Congress prior to the summit in order for Biden to gain leverage.
Britain is planning to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the nation has been under fire as they are still exploring a new North Sea oil and gas extraction site. Although there are disagreements within the U.K. about oil and gas, the hosts are urging nations to leave coal behind as it continues to contribute heavily to greenhouse gas emissions. This is an ambitious goal considering that China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, is in the midst of opening up new coal production.
What happens at a COP?
COP26 has laid out four goals for the summit:
1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
3. Mobilize finance.
4. Work together to deliver.
Working with these goals in mind, countries are expected to devise aggressive goals to reduce emissions by 2030. Developed countries have been asked to invest at least $100 billion per year to fight climate change by 2020.
Many experts are skeptical that any concrete agreements can be made, as the participating countries disagree widely about how to fight climate change. For instance, Australia’s new climate plan commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 but does not make any updates to its 2030 goals. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to criticism of the plan with, “[I] won’t be lectured by others who do not understand Australia.”