What is COP26 in Glasgow and why does the climate change summit matter?

A banner advertising the upcoming COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 (Photo: Bloomberg)
A banner advertising the upcoming COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 (Photo: Bloomberg)


Governments from around the world are meeting in Glasgow in early November to push global climate talks forward

Climate negotiators from nearly every country will gather for two weeks in early November in Scotland to hammer out a new agreement aimed at cutting emissions to a level scientists hope will limit global warming. The meeting is officially called the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

What is COP26?

A COP has taken place every year since 1995, except last year, when it was canceled due to Covid-19. The U.K. is hosting this year’s meeting, called COP26. The aim is to agree on new measures to meet pledges for emissions cuts and financial support made under the Paris Agreement reached in 2015.

What is at stake at COP26?

The Paris accord called for governments to update their plans every five years. Because last year’s COP was canceled, the Glasgow summit is the first to be held after the first, five-year review cycle under the Paris accord. It is also the first COP to take place since the U.S., the planet’s second-biggest emitter after China, rejoined the Paris accord. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, but President Biden reversed that decision in one of his first moves in office.

Who is attending COP26?

Most governments are sending delegations and, in some cases, their heads of state. Mr. Biden is scheduled to attend the first few days of the meeting. Queen Elizabeth is also expected to attend. Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish climate activist, has said she is planning to go. Executives from many big multinationals, activists and nongovernmental organizations from around the world are planning to attend for at least a part of the two-week meeting.

Where and When is COP26?

The summit is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.

What are the main points of the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement was the most ambitious U.N. deal yet to tackle climate change. Governments agreed on a collective goal to limit the earth’s warming by the end of the century, to well under two degrees Celsius compared with the preindustrial era, and to strive to keep warming to 1.5 degrees. To achieve that goal, they agreed to submit national plans to limit their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which most scientists agree are the primary drivers of global warming.

Why did the U.S. leave, then rejoin the Paris Agreement?

The Trump administration said the accord put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage because of regulatory and financial burdens it could put on American companies. On announcing the U.S.’s departure in June 2017, he called the move a “reassertion of our sovereignty." The Biden administration, meanwhile, says climate change can be tackled in ways that offer economic opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers.

How does the Biden White House intend to address climate change?

Mr. Biden has been pushing Congress to pass a broad spending package to speed up the adoption of cleaner energy, a plan that could reshape the U.S. economy. He has also promised to back up that plan with new regulations from across the government, and agencies are moving new proposals that would, for example, require lower greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and trucks or require companies to provide investors with new financial disclosures related to climate change. Congress has yet to approve any major climate spending, but Mr. Biden has pledged to win congressional approval for another $11 billion by 2024 to help developing countries cope with climate change.

The president also said earlier this year that the U.S. would seek to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by between 50% and 52% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Which other countries are part of the Paris Agreement?

Almost all of them. More than 190 countries have signed the accord, though several haven’t officially ratified it, including Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Turkey and Yemen.

What will governments negotiate about in Scotland?

The U.S., Europe and a few other wealthy nations accept that their emissions are the main cause of the warming that has occurred since the preindustrial era. But they also want the developing world to respond as well, calling on nations such as China, India, South Africa and Indonesia to limit emissions. In exchange, they have committed to mobilizing at least $100 billion annually by 2020, through 2025, to fund clean energy technologies in the developing world and help poorer countries adapt to climate change.

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