• The climate summit COP26 runs 1-12 November in Glasgow.
  • On this Radio Davos podcast, we discuss the big issues for the COP.
  • And climate campaigner Jennifer Morgan sets out her hopes and fears.

"COP26 is not a photo-op nor a talking shop," Alok Sharma, the British government minister who will chair the climate summit, said in a recent speech.

So what is COP26, and what can we expect from it? That is the question we seek to answer on this week's Radio Davos podcast.

Gideon Lichfield, Global Editor in Chief of Wired, joins us to look ahead to the summit.

Our two-minute explainer: What is COP26 and why does it matter?

What is a 'COP'

The climate summit COP26 takes place on 1-12 November, 2021 in Glasgow. But what is a ‘COP’ - why is this ‘26’, and why does it matter?

COP stands for 'Conference of the Parties' - a meeting of all the signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - the treaty that was agreed at the so-called Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 under which governments agreed to tackle global warming.

That UN treaty was signed in 1992 - so why do we keep having these COPs?

That treaty did not set out the details of how countries would do that - that work was left open for discussion at the annual conferences of the parties. The first of those - COP1 - took place in Berlin in 1995.

What happens at a COP?

Governments negotiate what action each of them must take to fight climate change. Some COPs have resulted in landmark agreements that have advanced climate action, although sometimes progress is a matter of ‘two steps forward and one step back’.

For example?

At COP3, held in Kyoto, Japan, governments agreed the first ever binding greenhouse gas emissions targets. But the deal frayed at subsequent COPs and the United States - the world’s biggest polluter at the time - pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

The last landmark COP was COP21 in Paris in 2015 which produced the Paris Agreement - where countries said they would keep global warming to well below 2°C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably no more than 1.5°C.

So Paris was a landmark - but why is Glasgow so important?

The Paris deal requires countries to increase the ambition of their greenhouse gas emissions plans every five years. As COP26 was delayed by a year due to the COVID pandemic, that deadline has stretched to six years. Current pledges - even if matched by action - would not reach the Paris targets, so the big question for the COP is, are we getting closer to reining-in climate change, or is it out of our grasp?

So COP26 is not a talking shop. This is how Alok Sharma defined it:

"It must be the forum where you put the world on track to deliver on climate. And that is down to leaders. It is leaders who made a promise for the world in Paris six years ago, and it is leaders that must honour it. Responsibility rests with each and every country, and we must all play our part, because on climate, the world will succeed or fail as one."

Also mentioned in this podcast:

Article 6

You'll hear a lot of talk about Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. It's all about the rules that could govern international emissions trading - buying and selling the right to pollute. As this explainer from the World Resources Institute puts it: "Getting these rules right is critical for fighting climate change: depending on how they are structured, Article 6 could help the world avoid dangerous levels of global warming or let countries off the hook from making meaningful emissions cuts."

$100 billion

That's the amount that richer countries have pledged to give each year to help poorer ones deal with climate change. It has not been reached, and will be a major issue in Glasgow. Read more here.

Jennifer Morgan mentioned the many court cases on climate change. You can read more on that in this blog and hear more in this episode of Radio Davos from earlier this year:

Hear our other COP26 podcasts:

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