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Goal 13: Climate Action

WHAT IS COP26 AND WHY IS IT SO VITAL?

The UN climate summit is taking place in Glasgow this November – so what’s it all about?

By EMMA ELMS AND TATUM STILES
3 JUNE 2021

Imagine this: put the world’s power players in one room and give them 12 days to solve the climate crisis. Bonus points for being first to finish. If only it was that simple… COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ and refers to the United Nations’ annual Climate Change Conference. In November this year, governments from over 190 different countries will meet in Glasgow to develop specific plans on how to tackle the climate emergency.

 

Over the past year, while world leaders have been understandably caught up in the pandemic, the climate crisis has been rapidly worsening. A recent survey by the UN shows two thirds of us believe we’re in a climate emergency. Time is running out, so 2021 is a vital year, when we need political leaders worldwide to commit to specific action to combat climate change and set ambitious goals.

Mock COP26

COP26 was meant to take place last year but was postponed due to the COVID crisis. In protest, over 330 young climate activists from over 140 different countries joined an online conference on the original date, called Mock COP26, a powerful statement showing the ambition of young people worldwide to fight for a fair, equal and green world.

Green tree and withered tree

The Paris Agreement

The event this November will be the 26th COP climate summit, hence the name. It’s more crucial than ever as countries are obliged to lay concrete plans to reach the targets they set in the landmark Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change agreed at COP21 in Paris in 2015, which came into force in 2016. And the deal? To limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, but preferably to 1.5. According to the UN, ‘To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries [must] aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.’ Many view COP26 as one of the last chances to put the world on track to fulfil the Paris Agreement.

Greta Thunberg in a yellow mac holding umbrella

Greta Thunberg’s view

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg insists despite promises made, ‘We are still speeding in the wrong direction.’ In a video released in December, Thunberg criticised leaders for failing to reverse rising carbon emissions. ‘The five years following the Paris agreement have been the five hottest years ever recorded and, during that time, the world has emitted more than 200bn tonnes of CO2’ she declared. ‘Distant hypothetical targets are being set, and big speeches are being given. Yet, when it comes to the immediate action we need, we are still in a state of complete denial…’

Greta Thunberg accuses global leaders of 'empty promises'

Thunberg has also said she won’t be attending COP26 unless developing countries are given access to COVID-19 vaccines, saying it’s unfair that a lack of vaccines could prevent poorer countries from attending.

 

Now the pressure is on the UK, as host and president of COP26, to seek key commitments from all the world’s leading economies to cut emissions over the next decade, which will determine whether the world meets the Paris goals.

What is G7?

But before COP26 kicks off, first we have the annual G7 summit, another big date in the climate calendar. The G7 aka ‘Group of Seven’ is made up of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the US. The G7 summit will be held in Cornwall on the 11th-13th June, where leaders of the seven countries, along with members of the EU, South Africa, Australia, India and South Korea, will discuss how to tackle big global issues. As a host nation, the UK will have a key role to play in discussions over how to recover from the pandemic. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will open the summit and has already announced he wants to ‘build back better’ to create a greener, more prosperous future.

COP26 – what we want

Not all are convinced by the UK government’s promises though. Andrew Medhurst, a leading campaigner with Extinction Rebellion, believes in the six years since the Paris Agreement was made, ‘It's clear that the rhetoric has not been matched by action – global emissions have barely fallen since Paris (and last year's fall of around 7% was due to the pandemic), he points out. ‘In recent years, the UK government has supported the expansion of Heathrow airport and bailed out high-carbon industries like airlines and car manufacturers without condition, as part of its COVID Recovery Plan. It did announce, in late 2020, that it would end public support for fossil fuel projects overseas.’

 

We asked five environmental experts what their hopes are for COP26.

Shweta Bahri, climate educator

Bahri is co-founder of Earth Warriors, a social enterprise that teaches young children about climate change and sustainability.

‘My main hopes for COP26 are:

1. For climate change to be made a compulsory part of national curriculums for every age group.

2. For there to be a transparent mechanism to ensure the voices of young activists reach policymakers and are taken into account during policy decisions.

3. For a commitment to invest in and create jobs in sectors that are integral to promoting climate change and sustainability solutions, like innovative technology and renewable energy.’

Row of cows in factory farm

William Sorflaten, Senior Campaigner at Viva!

Viva! is a vegan campaigning charity. Check out its Vegan Now campaign.

‘My main hopes for COP26 are:

1. For governments to recognise that animal agriculture must be limited if we are to reach and exceed the Paris Agreement. 

2. For governments to agree to end factory farming, thereby beginning the end of animal agriculture. 

3. For leaders to start encouraging plant-based food systems and subsidise environmentally sustainable agriculture.’

'My main hope for COP26 is for governments to agree to end factory farming'

Andrew Medhurst, XR campaigner

#TOGETHERBAND ambassador Andrew Medhurst quit his job in the City to become a full-time activist for Extinction Rebellion, the environmental conservation organisation.

‘My main hopes for COP26 are that a finance deal will be struck to:

1. Cease all subsidies and financing of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects

2. Promote subsidies and financing only for renewable energy

3. Support poorer nations in the Global South to produce plans which enable their development without reliance on fossil fuels.’

 

Oliver Bolton, CEO of Earthly

Earthly is an environmental conservation organisation.

‘My main hopes for COP26 are:

1. For a firm plan on how nature-based solutions can be integrated into the Paris Agreement strategy.

2. For credible targets that will actually be met and a mechanism for the huge financial transfers required from developed countries to developing countries to help them make the transition.

3. A commitment from all countries to specific carbon consumption targets and to pay for the carbon footprint, including on imports (i.e. a carbon border tax).’


Vanessa Amoroso, from the charity World Animal Protection

‘My main hopes for COP26 are:

1. COP26 is an opportunity to highlight how simple changes can benefit not only the planet, but animals and people too. We are facing an ecological crisis, biodiversity loss and possible resistance to antibiotics, due to their overuse with farm animals, if we don’t change our ways. We need an end to factory farming and the overuse of antibiotics it causes.

2. For an end to the commercial wildlife trade across borders.

3. For members of COP26 to recognise that to achieve our joint goals people need to reduce their meat consumption.’

Do you agree? We'll keep you posted on the outcome of COP26. Let us know on Instagram @togetherbandofficial what YOUR hopes are

All images: Shutterstock

Goal 13: Climate Action
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Goal 13: Climate Action
SFr. 46.00

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