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The where, when and why of COP26

One of the great plusses of going back to the pub or heading into the office is the opportunity to have some lively debates over a pint or a coffee in the kitchen.

Let’s face it, it’s not the same on a video call, when you really don’t get the full effect of Adam from accounts banging his fist on the table to make his point – especially when he’s forgotten he’s on mute, again.

There’s bound to be some animated discussions around COVID and the possibility of getting away to the sun for a summer holiday.

And with COP26 happening on our doorsteps in Scotland later this year, green issues and climate change could be hot topics as well.

So, before you head off to your local to become embroiled in an examination of the success or otherwise of the Paris Agreement, let us fill you in on what you need to know.

When and where is COP26?

First things first: COP26 is due to be in Glasgow from 1-12 November. But this is, of course, subject to change, depending on any restrictions that may be in place. You may remember that it was supposed to go ahead last year, but for obvious reasons, it had to be postponed.

During the event, the main formal activities involving world leaders and various experts will take place at the Scottish Events Campus, which for the duration of COP26 will be known as the blue zone.

A second zone, appropriately green, will be in the Glasgow Science Centre. Various events will be hosted here and this will be where interested organisations will come together to discuss the climate emergency and reflect on the conversations coming out of the blue zone.

What does COP26 stand for?

Everyone refers to it as COP26, but its official title is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties – you can understand why it gets shortened.

COPs are annual events (with the exception of last year) and started in Berlin in 1995.

And this year, Scotland has the honour of being the hosts, alongside the Italian government.

It's the UK's biggest ever summit?

Here’s a fact you can share – COP26 will be the biggest summit ever hosted in the UK.

During the 12 days of the event representatives from almost 200 nations and territories (197, if you really want to impress your friends) will spend time discussing how to tackle the climate emergency.

It is expected there will be around 30,000 representatives from the various countries in attendance, that’s about twice the average gate at a Hearts game.

What exactly will be talked about?

Well, this year’s event is particularly important as it comes five years (technically now six years) after the Paris Agreement was adopted.

The Paris Agreement was not a decision to spend a weekend in the French capital. It was a landmark agreement when the world’s nations united for the first time in coming up with a single plan to tackle global warming and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Part of that agreement was that it would be revisited every five years for nations to disclose exactly what progress they were making. Before the event takes place, countries should have made an NDC (a nationally determined contribution) that essentially details exactly what their plans are to tackle the climate emergency. As this is the first time those plans will be discussed on the world stage, it makes COP26 a big deal.

As an aside, you may remember the furore last year when Donald Trump decided to withdraw the USA from the terms of the agreement – and as soon as he was elected, Joe Biden re-signed.

As you’d expect, matters can become quite heated – you know how difficult it is to get your colleagues to agree on something. Multiply that several dozen times over and you can understand why the event lasts for as long as it does.

In fact, COP25, in Spain, over-ran by two days as the attendees struggled to reach any kind of consensus. But, COP25 is remembered more for the stirring speech made by young climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Key aims of the Paris Agreement

So, the Paris Agreement has four key aims, and they are:

  • Keeping the global temperature increase below 2C.
  • Cutting the amount of harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and encouraging the uptake of the use of renewable sources of energy.
  • Assessing the progress every five years.
  • Financially supporting poorer countries to make a difference.

These will form the basis of most of the conversations that take place in Glasgow, but the event is likely to be the catalyst for other discussions about the climate emergency.

OK, there you have it. Hopefully you now feel better equipped to get involved in those high-level discussions around the photocopier. But if you have any further questions, let us know.

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