COP26 - Why Was It Important?
What was COP26? It was the 26th annual ‘Conference Of the Parties’ and is considered to be the largest and most important meeting of world leaders since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Despite being in its third decade of existence, this conference made big headlines because many see this as our last chance to implement the big changes needed on a global level to drastically reduce emissions within the next decade. This meeting was hosted by the UK in Glasgow so was especially exciting for us Brits and hopefully helped rally people round to make it the success it really needs to be.
The United Nations have been organising these conferences for 27 years in an attempt to mitigate climate change, and The Paris Climate Agreement was a momentous occasion for successfully securing commitment from all countries to collaborate in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Sadly despite these promises, we are not on track to deliver these pledges, or come anywhere close, and with our window of opportunity drastically narrowing COP26 is crucial in laying down plans to radically reform the way the entire world operates to reduce emissions by half by 2030 and to reach net carbon zero by 2050.
Why is global warming a bad thing? Since the industrial era, our planet has undergone unrelenting heating at a rate never seen before. In the millennia preceding this period, global temperatures fluctuated up or down by 0.5 degree. Since this era began 200 years ago, but particularly over the last 50 years, we have put ourselves on track to warm the world by 1.5 degrees by 2030, and by 2 degrees by 2050 or sooner depending on what action we take now.
Global warming means that the average global temperature is rising and with an increase in temperature comes alteration to our climate. Here in the UK, we are fortunate enough to have a very temperate climate, be located far from fault lines (where Earthquakes occur) and the Equator (where hurricanes start), plus we don’t have enormous amounts of forest that are logged for timber or cleared for agriculture (which leads to landslides). For us, we will generally experience hotter, longer and drier summers, warmer and wetter winters with more intense downpours and increased chances of flooding. We saw some terrible flooding in 2020 with over 200% more rainfall recorded than average, and this is only set to increase.
In other areas of the world, the picture is much, much more bleak. The island of Kiribati is one of the lowest lying countries on Earth and it’s government has already begun to think about the migration of their entire population due to rising sea levels - it’s estimated their land could be completely underwater within the next 50 years. In fact, it’s thought there could be up to 200 million displaced people worldwide due to the effects of climate change on their lands and livelihoods and this has already begun. The increased occurrence and severity of hurricanes in Western and Central America, wildfires of Australia, Portugal and Greece and increased flooding of Germany, France and the UK are merely demonstrations of what the future has in store if we’re unable to curb our emissions.
But there is hope! A lot of hope actually and we still have time to turn things around. But the clock is ticking and that is why COP26 was so important. We have until 2030 to reduce our emissions by at least 50% if we stand a chance of preventing the worst of catastrophes. Given the global scale of this, time is not on our side, but with bold, decisive action from our governments and from us as individuals, we can prevent the worst from happening.