What is COP26?
COP26 was a big conference where leaders from all over the world came together to discuss how we are going to tackle climate change.
There has been other COPs in the past. COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ and because this was the 26th time they have met it was called COP26.
COP26 takes place in different places every few years, for example the COP conference before COP26 was in Madrid – the capital of Spain. The COP meeting in Madrid finished with lots of countries saying they planned to take climate change more seriously but also lots of big issues were unresolved. An agreement was made about cutting carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
COP26 was held in Glasgow.
The first COP was nearly 30 years ago. 30 years ago climate change was not considered as important as it is now and many countries and people didn’t want to make the changes needed to stop climate change happening.
What happened at COP26?
When talking about COP26 Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “Securing a brighter future for our children and future generations requires countries to take urgent action at home and abroad to turn the tide on climate change.”
World leaders discussed what changes should be made and when they will make these changes by. This COP was very important because people have described this COP as “the best last chance we have to slow climate change”. Many people like climate activist Greta Thunberg say that the science shows that if we don’t commit to action now then we will set off a series of irreversible changes.
Here’s what happened:
Countries made a COP26 agreement
The agreement – although not legally binding – will set the global agenda on climate change for the next decade:
Carbon dioxide emissions
Countries agreed to meet next year to make further promises to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and to try and make sure that the temperature doesn’t rise beyond 1.5 degrees of warming.
Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.
Coal causes 40% of CO2 emissions. This was the first COP conference where there has been an explicit plan to reduce coal however people have criticised the plan as countries changed their commitment from ‘phase out’ to phase down’ after intervention from China and India.
The agreement pledged to give more money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to renewable energy. In general poorer countries suffer the consequences of climate change more than rich countries despite contributing to causing climate change less.
However some Latin American and African countries felt not enough was being pledged in these promises and that to really help more needed to be done.
Fossil fuel subsidies
World leaders agreed to phase-out subsidies, that means when things are made cheaper by the government, of fossil fuels.
However they have not set a date for when they need to do this by which some people say makes this a weak promise.
What else was agreed at COP26?
Leaders from over 100 countries promised to stop deforestation by 2030. Forests absorb lots of CO2 so this is really positive however some people say 2030 is too far away and there isn’t a way to make sure countries stick to it.
More than 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 in the first 20 years it is emitted into the atmosphere so cutting methane could really helps tackle climate change.
However China, Russia and India haven’t joined the agreement.
How do we know countries will keep their pledges?
Most of the decisions made at COP26 aren’t promises and so we have to just trust that countries will do what they’ve said they will.
Only a few countries are making their pledges legally binding.
Why we need Climate Heroes
This is our world and we only have one.
It is important that we protect the Earth and reduce the impacts of climate change for lots of reasons.
Climate Change is affecting families all over the world – some families have lost their homes due to flooding or wildfires which are all consequences of climate change. Although we are lucky that in the U.K. we are not suffering from the worst impacts of climate change it is important we help other people across the world who haven’t been as lucky. If we don’t change now then there will be more extreme weather like heatwaves, storms and floods.
Climate Change is hurting wildlife – When climates get warmer it changes the environment and due to the effects of climate change on animals habitats some animals are becoming extinct. Climate change causes the ice caps to melt which means polar bears have less and less space to live. As the world gets warmer so does the ocean which hurts sea life all over the world.
Climate Change is a really big problem, so we need YOU to become a Climate Hero and help tackle the problem.
There is lots you can do and there is already lots being done by scientists and world leaders.
Become a Climate Hero and save the world!