The importance of COP26 for all living beings

If you keep up with the news, or even if you don’t, you may have heard discussions regarding the upcoming COP26 being held in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November.

What is COP26?

‘COP26’ stands for the ‘26th Conference of Parties’ and is a summit during which world leaders, scientists, policy advisors, businesses, activists and organisations meet to discuss the greatest problem of our time: climate change.

Charities covering topics such as food security, animal welfare and human rights are usually in attendance as this large issue spans each of these challenges. Parts of these summits are also open to the general public, with many interesting actions, events and talks taking place.

Whilst these summits are held annually, many think of 2015’s COP21 as being one of the most successful. 

It was here that the Paris Agreement was created, within which countries pledged to reduce their emissions in line with a 1.5°C global temperature increase. 

Although a 1.5°C temperature increase from pre-industrial levels does not sound like much, this increase will still see many negative changes, but due to past emissions is likely the best we can do.

We have included the following information to hopefully make understanding the talk about the conference easier to understand, as there is often a high usage of acronyms and inaccessible language when talking about climate change!

Jargon buster

COP26- 26th Conference of Parties
UNFCCC- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is an international climate change treaty that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions
NDC’s – Nationally Determined Contributions. This refers to the agreements made during the Paris Agreement by different countries about the action they would take to cut emissions
Mitigation- reducing climate emissions to reduce the negative impacts
Adaptation- adapting to the negative impacts caused by climate change
Net zero- emitting no extra greenhouse gases than what can naturally be absorbed (net zero does not mean that no emissions will be released at all.)
Positive feedback loop- an environmental change than can create a snowball effect of more warming
Tipping point- a threshold that once met can lead to irreversible climate change
GMST – Global Mean Surface Temperature. This is the most commonly used measure when looking at the warming of the planet
IPCC- International Panel on Climate Change. This is an intergovernmental panel that aims to further human understanding on climate change through regular reports.
Climate lobbying- whilst this term could be used to describe those lobbying for the government to create positive change, this term also refers to anti-climate science lobbying and arguments for climate change denial.

So why is this one so important?
Whilst many important agreements have been made over the years, such as the Paris Agreement, often the action taken does not match the pledges that were made and now we are really running out of time.

The most recent IPCC report, released earlier this year showed that we could reach the 1.5°C threshold as early as 2040.

Temperature increases of closer to 2°C or more is likely to irreparably damage coral reefs, melt the remaining Arctic sea ice and negatively impact highly biodiverse rainforests.

It would be likely that habitats would become fragmented, migratory patterns disrupted and that there would be a surge in species extinction. This is alongside an increase in extreme weather events that would cause chaos for other species, such as the wildfires we have seen globally over the last two years.

Hundreds of thousands of people are already affected by climate change and millions more are expected to be as the climate continues to change due to sea level increases, food insecurity and the increase spread of disease.

This COP could be one of our last chances to achieve pathways to 1.5°C.

It is important that UK leads in climate action
Our historical emissions are a leading driver of climate change, meaning that we have a big responsibility to lead climate action.

We are a country that has the means to make the necessary changes to help the 1.5°C to be met.

Someone needs to take the lead to demonstrate and assist developing countries in leapfrogging the usage of fossil fuels and following our lead in the use of sustainable alternatives!

A nation of animal lovers with a deep care for conservation
The UK boasts the largest membership of wildlife-protection organisations in Europe, with millions of people supporting UK-based conservation charities.

We like to feed the birds in our garden and our childhoods probably saw us with sandy toes dipping a net in a rockpool in the hope of finding a crab! We love nature programmes and like to escape into the countryside when we need a break.

Despite all of this, sadly the UK has just 1% of its land conserved purely for nature. 

Add climate change into the mix and our remaining beautiful native biodiversity could be seriously threatened in all of its entirety.

We cannot let this happen!

How YOU can get involved to help save our biodiversity

Things you can do at home:
1. Make your garden wild- create a habitat for species whose homes are forever growing smaller! Remember to avoid the usage of pesticides, as they can negatively affect any food chain they enter
2. Reduce the use of plastic wherever possible
3. Reduce your consumption generally, but also of animal-based products
4. Plant a tree- either at home, or within a tree-planting event
5. Continue to support conservation and climate change organisations

Things you can do around COP if you can’t physically attend within the public zone
1. Attend the Global Day of Climate Action held on the 6th November, within a biodiversity block. These are well-organized events that will allow supporters to speak up for our planet’s biodiversity. They are currently organized for: Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Derry, Nottingham and Glasgow. You can take a look at the details for these events on: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/my-climate-action/cop26-march/?sourcecode=PAIAHC2730 – you can even just attend the Global Day of Climate Action generally, as there will be an event in most UK cities!
2. Get involved with the virtual people’s summit to get your voice heard: https://cop26coalition.org/peoples-summit/, here you can find a calendar of events that you can join for free, covering topics such as: protecting the Amazon rainforest, sustainable agriculture and climate solutions.
3. Take a look at the COP26 fringe events by going to: https://climatefringe.org/events-calendar/unofficial-cop-civil-society-events/ to see whether there are any virtual events you wish to attend

Please stay safe, speak up and remember to pop back to see a summary of how COP26 went, which will be posted on here!

- October 27, 2021