We don't have to be experts on every climate topic but it can be useful for our own understanding to learn about some of the big things (conferences, laws, scientific findings) that happen in the climate space. And it can also come in handy when we're talking to others about climate. COP is one of those big things and an especially big COP is happening in November this year, so we've put together this blog to run through what COP is, why it's important and what to expect this year (plus a little bit of context).
So what does COP stand for?
COP stands for Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP is a conference where countries come together and decide what they're going to do to tackle climate change and how they're going to coordinate global climate action. It is also core to making sure the Paris Agreement is implemented. And unless Parties decide otherwise, it's held every year (yes, the coronavirus pandemic did mean that COP was skipped for a year).
How does this all relate to the Paris Agreement?
At COP21 in 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted by nearly 200 countries. It was a big moment for global climate action because all the countries who adopted it were committing to limit global temperature rises this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius - preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius - above pre-industrial levels. Global climate action has always been complicated and the Paris Agreement marked a significant step forward in international commitments to reducing emissions.
In the COPs following 2015, the rules of the Paris Agreement have been negotiated between countries. There's one part of the agreement in particular however that is contentious - Article 6.
What's Article 6 and why is it contentious?
Article 6 of the Paris Agreement looks at carbon markets for emissions trading. According to the Climate Council, 'A global market for carbon dioxide emissions would allow governments and businesses to trade their greenhouse gas output. Those that manage to keep their emissions below a set cap could sell the remaining allowance to those that can't.' So, if a country is an overachiever, and reduces its emissions greatly, it could sell some of its emissions reductions to a country that has been emitting too many. Experts have said that a good trading system could make emissions reduction cheaper and fairer. But, it's complicated and a bad system could be very damaging, making emissions reductions seem bigger than they actually are, among other problems.
If you're keen to do a deep dive into this subject go here.
COP26 is happening this year
COP26 was meant to take place in November 2020 but was postponed due to coronavirus, so it's taking place this November instead! And being a year late pressure for significant climate action is ramping up, that combined with the narrowing window of time we have to address climate change.
COP26 is being held in Glasgow, Scotland between the 1st and 12th of November and is being co-hosted by the national governments of the UK and Italy. A Pre-COP meeting is being held in Milan, Italy and is the final official ministerial meeting before the COP. It gives countries the opportunity for informal discussions of the upcoming negotiations.
What's on the agenda for COP26?
As I mentioned above, the pressure is on this year. It's crunch time for climate action (I know, people have been saying that for over 30 years but time is really running out for us to take meaningful action on climate change). Around the world, countries have been making more climate commitments and stepping up their game. In Australia, where our government is a notorious climate laggard, we're feeling the international pressure (pressure our government, please!) and the election of President Biden in the USA has really amped this up. This sets the scene for the 2021 COP to be about big emissions reductions commitments with countries bringing 2025 or 2030 targets to the table.
Article 6 will of course also be on the agenda, as well as how to address 'Loss and Damage' and the 'mobilisation of US $100 billion a year in climate finance to support climate action in countries that need help financing climate action.
Now I know what COP is. Is there anything I can do about it?
Yes! Governments all around the world need to be reminded that we want strong climate action that prioritises the wellbeing of people and the planet. Use your voice and vote to send a message to your government that you expect big things from them at COP26. This might be writing a letter, joining a local climate action group and meeting with your local elected representative or planning a small rally outside their office!
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