What is COP26?

COP26 is an international summit under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United Kingdom will host the meeting, originally planned to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it has been postponed to November 2021.

COVID-19: Postponement of COP26

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020 the UNFCCC Bureau decided to postpone COP26. The U.K., in its role as COP26 President, then worked with the Bureau to consult other countries and civil society observers before eventually proposing 1st – 12th November, 2021 as the dates for a rescheduled COP26.

Preparatory meetings to lay the ground for decisions to be reached in Glasgow were due to take place in Bonn, Germany, in June 2020. Due to the German government’s COVID-19 restrictions, they were rescheduled to October 2020, and then suspended indefinitely. It is expected that these preparatory meetings will take place at some point during 2021. 

While the UN and the UK have put together a variety of online events – such as the June 2020 “Climate Momentum” or the November 2020 “Race to Zero” and “Climate Dialogues” – these are not formal negotiating sessions and cannot arrive at decisions that could be agreed to at COP26.

Key aims of COP26

The main agenda item for COP26 is to finalise “implementation guidelines” for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which has to do with “cooperative approaches” to tackling climate change. At COP25 in Madrid no agreement could be found on the contentious issue of carbon markets. 

Alok Sharma – the Convervative MP selected to lead the U.K. in its role as COP26 President – outlined 5 priority areas for the U.K. They included: Adaptation & Resilience; Nature; Energy Transition, Clean Road Transport; and Finance.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis, the focus of the UK and many other governments is shifting and COP26 will reflect this even if it does not become a formal negotiating item.

Learn more

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty aiming to “prevent ‘dangerous’ human interference with the climate system”. Since its creation at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, it has served as the space for the 197 countries who have ratified it to meet annually at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss ways to address the worsening impacts of climate change. 

The UNFCCC is composed of governing bodies, subsidiary bodies, and working groups under which key areas of climate action are being negotiated. Since the creation of the UNFCCC, two key agreements have overseen the climate commitments of countries that have adopted them: the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Paris Agreement (2015).

To learn more about the history and procedures of the UNFCCC, head over to our resources page.

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