COP26: why is it important?

The most important event for the future of the Environment is called COP26. This event will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, from the 1st to the 11th of November 2021.
It was originally scheduled for November 2020, however like many other events, it was postponed due to to the Covid19 pandemic.
It will be held under the presidency of the United Kingdom, and Italy will partner with the British Government to lead COP26.

But what exactly is COP26?

Well, let’s start with the name.
COP stands for ‘Conference Of the Parties’ to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Media often refer to it as the ‘Climate Summit’ because it’s actually a global convention of 197 countries who join the negotiations and the various and numerous meetings with an estimated 30,000 delegates who work to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and to establish legally binding obligations for the countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

This one in Glasgow will be the 26th summit, which is why it’s called COP26; the first COP took place in 1995 in Berlin, after a treaty agreed in 1994 to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The most recent COP was COP25, held in Madrid in November 2019.

From one of these COPs came The Paris Agreement, the big international deal to tackle climate change, agreed by 195 countries at the end of COP21, held in Paris in 2015.
Last year the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the deal, but the new US President Joe Bide immediately rejoined it after his election.
An essential fact about this conference is that it will be the very first time that Parties are expected to commit to enhanced ambition since COP21, verifying the results achieved by the signatory countries.

Speaking of results, the last COP (finishing with lots of big issues that were unresolved and with ferocious critics from environmentalist movements) has been considered successful by governments because an agreement was made about cutting carbon dioxide emissions, and each nation agreed to devise a plan to cut their carbon emissions by the next conference in Glasgow.
But in order to understand what the COP meetings are about, we prefer to report on some words told to The World at 1°C, an amazing media project about climate, from Asad Rehman, one of the most prominent spokespersons of civil society at the UNFCCC negotiations and one of the leaders of Friends of the Earth International and Global Justice Now!.
“If you start from a perspective that negotiations on climate change are about the climate, or about the environment, then you don’t really understand what the negotiations are about. The climate talks and the entire debate about climate change is fundamentally about political economy. Ultimately, it’s about maintaining the dominant neo-liberal economic system, the profits of the few, and when push comes to shove, it’s about deciding who lives and who dies. It’s about determining the level of loss of lives and livelihoods in poor countries that rich countries are willing to accommodate.”

So, despite the distance from the wellbeing of the Planet, or maybe for that specific reason, it is important that the COP Bureau allows the participation of civil society organisations, such as environmental NGOs, indigenous peoples’ institutions, trade unions and youth networks.
They are called ‘Observer Organizations’, and are admitted into many, but not all, spaces and can organise events, press conferences and protests (both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ official UN spaces).

The problem is that also big companies and corporations are allowed to access the meetings, and they seriously take this opportunity to shape the outcome of the talks.
Fossil fuel companies have even been official sponsors of past COPs, and finally this year the organization cut them off deciding that sponsors must have real commitments in place to help those countries reaching net zero in the near future.

Thanks to previous experience, when the length of the negotiations was not considered long enough by the countries involved, it was decided that there should be a PRE-COP26: a preparatory meeting held from 30 September to 2 October 2021 in Milan, due to Italy being the co-host of the COP26. The purpose of this meeting is to provide a selected group of countries with an informal setting to discuss and exchange views on some key political aspects of the negotiations to offer, to the greatest extent possible, a political guidance for subsequent negotiations.
The Pre-COP will be attended by 35 to 40 countries, representatives of the UNFCCC Secretariat, the chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies of the Convention and a number of stakeholders who play a key role in the fight against climate change or in the transition to sustainable development.

However, the very beginning of the Summit can be defined by the event that will take place a few days before, again in Milan: “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition”.
Young participants, aged between 15 and 29, and identified in the respect of the geographical, gender balance and proven activism on the issues of climate change and sustainable development, will meet from 28 to 30 September to debate and produce a document that will be discussed with the representatives of the governments who will meet in the following three days at the PreCop and then in Glasgow in November.

No matter if we agree or not with the operating principles of these summits, they will have a considerable impact on Human Beings and the Planet, so the least we can do is to be informed about them and about the the positions taken by our respective governments.
The next step can be to take on a proactive attitude in order to support the correct decisions or oppose the wrong ones.
With both these aims in mind, we will be updating you further about COP26 with reports and interviews, as well as live features during those exciting few weeks.

3 responses to “COP26: why is it important?”

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