COP26: What's it all about and what do we want to achieve?

Blog post by Kathryn Brown on 04 Nov, 2021
Kathryn Brown, The Wildlife Trusts' director of climate change action nationally, reveals why COP26 is such a vital moment in the fight against the climate crisis.

COP26 is now upon us, having been delayed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. You may have heard it referenced in the news or even in passing on the street, but the name gives little away. So, if you remain no wiser as to what it actually is, we are here to provide some explanation.


What is COP?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, the term given to a range of global conferences that cover different United Nations conventions (or UN 'organisations'). In this case, COP26 is the 26th meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was created in 1992. The first meeting of the Convention (COP1) was held in 1995 and there has been a COP every year since (with the exception of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
 

What has COP achieved in the past?

Two notable COPs you may remember hearing about were held in Kyoto in 1997, where the Kyoto Protocol was signed off. That agreement pledged greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets from developed countries, up to 2020; the first time such an agreement had ever been reached. And in 2015 in Paris, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, was completed. Now the Kyoto Protocol period has ended, the Paris Agreement implementation period must begin.

COP26 is all about the implementation of the Paris Agreement, with the aim to ensure that enough global action is happening to keep global temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This is the aim of all of the Parties to the Convention, nearly 200 countries (rather than just developed countries, as was the case for the Kyoto Protocol).
 

What do we want to achieve from COP26?

30 by 30 - the situation in 2021

30 by 30 - the situation in 2021

This COP is not about getting a new global deal, despite what some of the media coverage has implied. We have a global deal - the Paris Agreement - and this COP is about whether countries are doing enough on their pledges, both on reducing emissions and in adapting to the effects of climate change that are now unavoidable and already happening. There is a real sense of urgency for this COP because we know from climate scientists around the world that we are running out of time to reverse the escalating climate crisis.

Despite the pledges and action to date, global greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing, and with them, concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is changing our climate at a very fast rate. The global scientific consensus on climate change is set out in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their latest report is clear. Global warming of at least 1.5°C is now largely inevitable, and to keep temperature rise from increasing further, greenhouse gas emissions must start to fall rapidly, now. This COP is so important because there needs to be an acceleration of action from all countries to do just that. And alongside, there will be calls to do more on adaptation, including increasing finance for developing countries which are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts so far.
 

How you can keep up to date with all things COP26

There are tens of thousands of people attending COP; both national delegates who will negotiate on behalf of each country, and observers. We are there representing The Wildlife Trusts as observers, and doing three things:
  • Hosting a daily update for all of our members and the wider public, to explain what is going on at COP26 and how it relates to our work to protect nature. You can sign up to receive daily emails with these updates here: www.wildlifetrusts.org/cop26#form
  • Hosting a very special WildLIVE event called 'Let Nature Help' on the middle Sunday of COP (7 November) to discuss how important nature's role in addressing climate change is; as well as the importance of taking action to tackle climate change to protect nature. You can sign up for your free spot to attend here: Wild LIVE: Let Nature Help | The Wildlife Trusts
  • A small Wildlife Trust delegation is on the ground at COP26 to get our messages across at different events and ensure that we are visible amongst the debate.
30 by 30 - the situation in 2021

30 by 30 - the vision for 2030

Our goal for COP26 is to put nature recovery at the heart of increased ambition on climate change; in the UK and globally; and on both mitigation and adaptation. We have published an updated version of our Let Nature Help report that sets out the specifics of how we want to see nature and climate integrated in the COP discussions. We also have lots of resources on climate change, and its impact on nature, for you to browse and use yourself, as well as top tips for reducing your carbon footprint.

I last attended the COP as a negotiator back in the period between 2003 - 2005 (COP9, 10 and 11). Some things won't have changed, including the complex format to the negotiations, which is inevitable when 200 countries are trying to reach agreement. But some things may change this time around. We may finally start to see the real change in global ambition that is needed to get greenhouse gas emissions on a downward trajectory. We may see adaptation to climate change and support for developing countries getting equal billing as a top priority. And, we may see real recognition that the twin crises of climate change and nature loss must be tackled together.
Share this

Latest Blog Posts

Norfolk's Seals: Past, Present and Future Norfolk's Seals: Past, Pres...
by Katy Ellis on 19 May, 2022
Bishop’s Garden Wild project – how did it go? Bishop’s Garden Wild projec...
by Susannah Armstrong on 05 May, 2022
Put your garden to the test! Put your garden to the test!
by The Wildlife Trusts on 21 Apr, 2022
NWT Young People's Photography Competition - See the winners! NWT Young People's Photogra...
by Rachael Murray on 07 Apr, 2022
Getting Wild About Gardens Getting Wild About Gardens
by The Wildlife Trusts on 24 Mar, 2022
A tribute to Peter Lambley MBE, 1946-2022 A tribute to Peter Lambley ...
by Helen Baczkowska on 10 Mar, 2022
Wooing in the Wild Wooing in the Wild
by The Wildlife Trusts on 24 Feb, 2022
Mammal Mysteries Mammal Mysteries
by Darren Tansley on 10 Feb, 2022
A Conservation Work Party at Upton Fen A Conservation Work Party a...
by Jerry Simpson on 27 Jan, 2022
How to Identify Owls How to Identify Owls
by The Wildlife Trusts on 13 Jan, 2022
NWT Recommends: Holiday Reads NWT Recommends: Holiday Reads
by Emily Mildren & Susannah Armstrong (with contributions from several NWT staff!) on 17 Dec, 2021
Broadland Group's Return to Work at Upton Fen Broadland Group's Return to...
by Jerry Simpson on 09 Dec, 2021
The Queerness of Nature: In conversation with James McDermott The Queerness of Nature: In...
by Meg Watts & Molly Bernardin on 02 Dec, 2021
A New Direction: Starting Small by Creating Norfolk Wetlands A New Direction: Starting S...
by William Walker on 21 Oct, 2021
Broadland Group Moth Night Broadland Group Moth Night
by Jerry Simpson on 07 Oct, 2021
Moth and butterfly survival strategies Moth and butterfly survival...
by The Wildlife Trusts on 23 Sep, 2021
Out for Nature: Reflections on Pride with The Wildlife Trusts LGBTQ+ Employee Network Out for Nature: Reflections...
by Meg Watts on 14 Sep, 2021
Celebrating bees with our supporters, Lisa Angel Celebrating bees with our s...
by Susannah Armstrong & Lisa Angel on 09 Sep, 2021
Horsey Butterfly Walk by the Broadland Local Group Horsey Butterfly Walk by th...
by Jerry Simpson on 26 Aug, 2021
Recognising birds of prey Recognising birds of prey
by The Wildlife Trusts on 12 Aug, 2021
Cley Calling: Closer to Home Festival Review Cley Calling: Closer to Hom...
by Evie York on 29 Jul, 2021
Day Flying Moths Day Flying Moths
by Robert Morgan on 17 Jul, 2021
Bishop's Garden July Update: From Moths to Wild Flowers Bishop's Garden July Update...
by Barry Madden on 15 Jul, 2021
Swift Awareness Week Swift Awareness Week
by Sarah Gibson on 01 Jul, 2021