What Is COP26? And Other Questions About the Big U.N. Climate Summit
Lisa Friedman has spent more than a decade covering global climate negotiations. Glasgow is her 10th COP. The United Nations , which officially ended Friday but continued into Saturday, is considered a crucial moment for efforts to address the . More than 130 heads of state and government and thousands of diplomats met over two weeks to set new targets for cutting emissions from burning coal, oil and gas that are heating the planet. The conference is held annually but this year is critical because scientists say nations must make an immediate, sharp pivot away from fossil fuels if they hope to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of . But the challenges are enormous. China, Australia and Russia have either failed to set new targets for cutting carbon emissions this decade or announced ones that scientists consider weak. India pledged to significantly increase renewable energy, but coal, which provides the bulk of Indias electricity, would remain a large part of its energy mix in the coming decade. Brazil announced it would cut emissions by 50 percent by 2030, but many observers remain skeptical that Brazils president, Jair Bolsonaro, will keep that pledge. Meanwhile, only a few wealthy countries have allocated money to help poor and vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of climate disasters that they have done little to cause. Those two factors make the likelihood of success at the conference, known as , uncertain. The conference ran for two weeks and officially ended Nov. 12. The meetings are being held at the Scottish Event Campus, Glasgows largest exhibition center. In addition to more than 21,000 attendees at formal talks and side events, large marches are expected around the city. Saturday, Nov. 6 was designated the Global Day for Climate Justice. More than , according to rally organizers, as world leaders debated how to deliver on the unmet promises of years past. COP stands for Conference of the Parties. In diplomatic parlance, the parties refer to 197 nations that agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at a meeting in 1992. That year, the United States and some other countries ratified the treaty to combat dangerous human interference with the climate system and stabilize levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. This is the 26th time countries have gathered under the convention hence, . President Biden arrived the first Monday of the conference. He is among about 130 heads of state and government who attended, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland. Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia did attend . Thousands of diplomats from nearly 200 countries conducted the nuts and bolts of the negotiations throughout the two weeks, while business leaders, academic experts and activists, including , monitored the proceedings and in many cases pushed for more ambitious targets. The British and United Nations hosts have said they want to of constraining global temperature rise to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution. Thats the threshold beyond which scientists say the dangers of global warming such as deadly heat waves, water shortages, crop failures and ecosystem collapse grow immensely. Meeting that goal means all countries must commit to cutting emissions faster and deeper than they already are doing. There is also an expectation that wealthy countries will significantly increase financial support to help the most vulnerable nations adapt to the impacts of warming and build economies that dont depend on fossil fuels. Scientists have warned that global warming until humanity reaches net zero emissions globally that is, the point at which we are no longer pumping any additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. So in recent years a growing number of countries and businesses have been pledging to go net zero by various dates. But the concept can easily be abused. Its one example of climate terminology that can be hard to decipher. We explained it and 12 others. The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995, after a critical mass of nations ratified the climate convention. It was a milestone and set the stage for the Kyoto Protocol two years later, which required wealthy, industrialized nations to curb emissions. That accord had its problems. Among them, the United States under former President George W. Bush rejected it, citing the fact that it did not require China, India and other major emerging economies to reduce their greenhouse gases. In 2015, after more than two decades of disputes over which nations bear the most responsibility for tackling climate change, leaders of nearly 200 countries signed the . That deal was considered groundbreaking. For the first time, rich and poor countries agreed to act, albeit at different paces, to tackle climate change. The United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement under former President Donald J. Trump but in February of this year. On Monday, in a smaller session with world leaders after his address to the full conference, Mr. Biden referred to Mr. Trumps action. I guess I shouldnt apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States, in the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball, he said. While leaders made big promises in Paris, countries have not done enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, which brings us to in Glasgow, where the pressure is on for leaders to be more ambitious. For , scientists say, the world will see more intense heat waves and drought, and more deadly floods and wildfires. Humans have already heated the planet by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century. Countries have to reduce emissions enough to keep the planet below 1.5 degrees of warming. So if leaders dont commit to bold steps now, when so much global attention is focused on Glasgow, many fear the world will barrel toward dangerous levels of warming. President Biden has said that America will cut emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels in the next decade. As of now, though, few policies are in place to make that happen. The European Union also to cut their emissions roughly 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. But China, now the worlds largest climate polluter, has not shifted its plan to peak emissions before 2030 a target scientists say is not adequate to keep the planet on a 1.5 degree pathway. Whether more countries come on board, and , will determine the trajectory of the planet. The was delayed last year because of the pandemic. Despite calls from environmental organizations to delay again, organizers committed to holding this years event in person. The British hosts obtain one, but they are not mandating that attendees be vaccinated. Anyone entering the main conference site, known as the Blue Zone, must self-administer a rapid Covid-19 test and show a negative result. The science of climate change is complicated, and thinking about its consequences and how to fix the problem can be overwhelming. Explaining the factors in play to children can be especially difficult. To help start the conversation, The New York Times put together a climate change guide for children as part of this years Earth Day package. reports on federal climate and environmental policy from Washington. She has broken multiple stories about the Trump administrations efforts to repeal climate change regulations and limit the use of science in policymaking.