COP26: What could be decided at the key climate summit?

26 October 2021, 13:56 | Updated: 26 October 2021, 13:59

Boris Johnson has said 'urgent action' is needed from COP26
Boris Johnson has said 'urgent action' is needed from COP26. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

COP26 is being presented as the final opportunity for world leaders to “restore the planet” by bringing climate change under control.

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COP26 – short for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference – will be held in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November.

With the UK holding the presidency, Boris Johnson has said "securing a brighter future for our children and future generations requires countries to take urgent action at home and abroad to turn the tide on climate change".

Read more: What is COP26 and why does it matter? A complete guide to the key climate summit

But what is this "urgent action"? What could be decided at the conference? Here, LBC explains all.

'The four goals'

The UK government says that in order to have any hope of tackling climate change, leaders from 200 countries need to do four things at the conference...

  • Commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050

Countries are being told to present and commit to their individual plans to halve emissions by 2030.

This is part of a drive to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. For context, previous climate change action plans would result in warming above 3C.

Read more: What is COP26 and why does it matter? A complete guide to the key climate summit

Read more: Boris Johnson: 'Touch and go' whether COP26 summit will be a success

In order to halve emissions by the end of the decade, countries will need to accelerate the phasing out of coal, curtail deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables. Announcements on these issues can be expected through the course of the summit.

The UK government presented its own net zero strategy in the House of Commons on 19 October.

  • Commit to adapt to ongoing climate change

All countries are being told to produce an "adaptation communication", setting out what they are already doing to adapt to the changing climate, challenges they are facing and where they need help.

The government says this will "enable and encourage" countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems and build infrastructure such as flood defences and warning systems which can guard against loss of homes, livelihoods and lives.

  • Commit to ‘unleashing trillions’

In order to deliver the two objectives above, the government says "developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100 billion every year in climate finance to support developing countries".

This includes getting financial institutions "to unleash the trillions in private finance that are needed to power us towards net zero".

  • Commit to collaboration

The government says that by committing to work together, countries can "lay the foundations for faster progress" over the next decade.

"Governments, business and civil society need to work together to transform the ways we power our homes and businesses, grow our food, develop infrastructure and move ourselves and goods around."

What have environmental campaigners said ahead of COP26?

Unsurprisingly, many environmental groups and campaigners have rejected the government's rhetoric ahead of the conference. And there will be hundreds of protesters in Glasgow making their thoughts known.

Extinction Rebellion, which calls for net zero emissions by 2025 – as opposed to 2050 – said it expects COP26 to be a "catastrophic failure, which will be spun by the government as a success to an unsuspecting public".

Teenage activist Great Thunberg famously took aim at Boris Johnson and other world leaders with her "blah, blah, blah" speech last month. She has previously called for month-by-month emissions targets, compared to decade by decade.

Greenpeace, meanwhile, has said that for COP26 "to be a real success, leaders need to go beyond commitments they’ve already made, and back up their promises with concrete national plans, policies and investments".

It has called for an immediate halt to all new fossil fuel projects, and for coal burning to stop altogether.