WION Explains | COP26: What, Why, How and Where?


The world is gearing up for the 27th Conference of Paris (COP). With nations preparing to meet again to deliberate the progress since the last COP26, here is a look into what is COP26, what were its key take always and what are the challenges on its way.

What is COP?

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. COP26 refers to the most recent annual climate change conference hosted by the UN. The most recent COP summit was hosted in a partnership between UK and Italy. It was conducted from 1-12 November 2021 in Glasgow. 

This year, COP27 is to take place in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. It is important to note that this conference is held every year by the world’s governments and is attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

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What is UNFCCC? 

The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994, and has been ratified by 197 countries. It was signed in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which is also known as the Earth Summit, the Rio Conference or the Rio Summit. 

Which environmental issues were the main focus of COP26?

Coal: It is responsible for 40 per cent of annual CO2 emissions and 64 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. COP26 set targets to reduce the use of coal. The major takeaway was the agreement to work on the inefficient oil and gas subsidies i.e. the government payments that artificially lower the price of fossil fuels.

Deforestation: It is another significant global issue. More than 100 countries pledged to stop deforestation by 2030. It is noteworthy that these 100 countries have about 85 per cent of the world’s forests. Deforestation is a crucial issue as trees absorb nearly 10 per cent of CO2 which is emitted every year. 

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Climate finance: Finance is essential to combat climate issues at a global level. All the developed and rich countries have agreed to contribute nearly 72 billion pounds a year to developing countries for climate action by 2022 end. This pledge was missing in 2020 and hence, was an important part of COP26.

Methane: methane emission is a global climate challenge and is responsible for nearly a third of human-generated waste. At COP26, nearly 100 countries agreed to cut down on 30 per cent of methane emissions by 2030. 

What was the key takeaway from COP26?

At COP26, countries were urged to strengthen their 2030 targets by COP27. It was targeted that global warming should not exceed +1.5 degrees Celsius. Nearly 140 countries announced set target dates for bringing down the emissions to a net zero. 

The highlight of COP26 was the Glasgow climate pact. This pact was endorsed by 42 countries as a cooperative effort to accelerate the development and deployment of clean technologies. It also aims at sustainable solutions in areas such as clean power, road transport, steel and hydrogen.

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What are the major challenges?

The targets set at COP26 are voluntary with no definitive penalties or enforcement mechanism in place. In fact, many targets are subject to provisions based on the availability of financial support. Further, there is a lack of clarity on particular actions that will be taken by countries to achieve the goals. 

The biggest challenge arises with the carbon budget. Carbon budget distribution across the nations is widely questionable. For example, the top three emitters are China, the USA and Europe and account for about 30 per cent of the world’s population. This means that they would take up to 78 per cent of the carbon budget.

Thus, with active efforts to combat climate change and rectifications from COP26, COP27 might have a lot to offer in tackling the global climate crisis. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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