COP26: What you should know about the world’s most important climate summit

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COP26: What you should know about the world’s most important climate summit

More than ever before, the world is experiencing hotter temperatures, droughts, rising seas, and so much more. We know these changes are happening but not everyone knows why. Carbon pollution from fossil fuels is causing our planet to warm, ruining the earth’s natural systems in the process.

Presently, we don’t have to look far to see the results of climate change. Wherever you turn in Africa, there’s an ongoing climate crisis.

The severe famine in Madagascar, which has caused many families to feed on locusts, is but one of the devastating effects of climate change threatening the health of our families and the future of coming generations.

Africa’s situation is deserving of extraordinary attention. How so? Despite contributing to 4 percent of global total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the lowest of any region, Africa’s socio-economic development is threatened by the climate crisis.

In light of this, African leaders are gearing up for the upcoming COP26 to lay out Africa’s climate change concerns and needs, while reminding developed countries of their commitment towards ensuring a fair, equitable, robust response to climate change as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

In about five days, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) will hold. World leaders and national negotiators will meet in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss what needs to be done about climate change. Why should this event be of concern to us? In this piece, I explored some questions people ask about COP26.

What is a COP?

A COP stands for the Conference of Parties held every year. It all began in 1992 when countries around the world agreed to an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Having formally recognized the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, that year marked a turning point for world leaders as they set ground rules and expectations for global cooperation on combating climate change.

This year will be the 26th annual summit – hence the name COP26. The twelve-day event will be hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy.

After a one-year postponement due to Covid-19, world leaders will finally arrive in Scotland, alongside thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens, and activists to discuss and implement climate actions.

Why is it the world’s most important annual climate event?

For nearly thirty years, the United Nations has been bringing together almost every country on the planet for global climate summits. From that time, climate change has progressively gone from being a peripheral issue to one that requires urgent global action.

Climate change is the most existential crisis of our time. Countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Bahamas, Japan, Malawi, and Afghanistan have been ranked the six most vulnerable countries in the Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2021.

While climate change is a global crisis affecting every part of the earth, some countries are more vulnerable than others. Just like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change disproportionately affects the poor and marginalized, widening the already huge gap between the haves and the have nots.

What will be discussed at the event?

The historic 2015 climate summit in Paris saw 196 nations pledge to keep global temperature rises below 2C with the goal of limiting it to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. From the Paris Agreement came the pledges on emissions – popularly as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

The COP26 will reinforce and evaluate countries that are keeping their own end of the bargain as far as the Paris Agreement is concerned. The event will also see countries launch an adaptation goal and adopt a strategy for achieving such a goal.

And for Africa, COP26 presents an opportunity to recognize and address the unique needs and circumstances of the continent.

What are the goals to be achieved at COP26?

According to the COP26 document, the world is currently not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. If we continue as we are, temperatures will carry on rising, bringing even more catastrophic flooding, bush fires, extreme weather, and destruction of species.

As such, the COP26 aims to achieve the following goals:

  • Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  • Mobilize finance
  • Work together to deliver climate actions
How prepared are countries for the COP26?

According to Climate Action Tracker, Nigeria along with 115 countries (plus the EU) has met the cut-off date for the submission of new or updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Safe to say, Nigeria is ready to participate in the upcoming summit. It remains to be seen what adaptation and resilience strategies the country will actually roll out after the COP.

Meanwhile, countries including Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and India have failed to come up with improved NDCs. The jury is still out whether China’s president will attend COP26.

There is no doubt that the stakes are higher this time and with the COP 26 inching closer, it’s time for world leaders to move beyond talks to real actions that can fight climate change.

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