COP26 is critical because it is the first COP since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Governments are now planning how to rebuild from the pandemic and it is vital that these plans are based around the need for a global green and just transition.
Pope Francis has warned that it would be “a scandal” if the money governments are spending to rebuild economies and save businesses “were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of creation”.
Governments are also obliged to set out more ambitious goals for ending their contribution to climate change under the Paris Agreement. A number of countries have begun to do so, including the UK.
Countries agreed to do this at COP21, the climate conference which took place in 2015 in Paris. Governments’ climate commitments are known as ‘nationally-determined contributions’ or ‘NDCs’ and are pledges made by countries themselves on the size of the cuts in emissions they will make themselves.
Countries pledged at the Paris climate talks to work to keep temperature rises below 1.5C. If the world warms more than this threshold, millions more people in the most vulnerable communities around the globe will suffer from devastating droughts, storms, floods and other impacts of climate change.
The UK will host the COP in 2021. It will take over from Chile which was the official host of COP25, even though the conference itself was held in Madrid in Spain. The UK government has the opportunity to lead the way in pushing for other countries to set more ambitious climate goals.