With climate change the leading cause of weather disasters that are now five times more common than in the 1970s, the eyes of the world will look to Glasglow, Scotland, for the annual COP26 climate change summit Oct. 31-Nov. 12 to see if leaders will be able to accelerate action.
The issue is no longer something that happens elsewhere. In the United States, 2021 has been a year of almost biblical weather disasters. Extreme cold knocked out power to as much as a quarter of Texans. An unprecedented heat dome brought temperatures as high as 117 degrees and killed hundreds of peoplein the Pacific Northwest. Huge wildfires destroyed thousands of buildings in California. Tropical Storm Henri caused as much as $12 billion in damages. Massive rainfall killed 20 in Tennessee in August. Hurricane Ida caused historic flooding in New York, Philadelphia and beyond.
President Joe Biden will travel to Scotland on Nov. 1 to meet with world leaders. But what will they be able to achieve? Your FAQs:
What is COP26?
COP26 is the annual United Nations meeting of the 197 countries that have agreed to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, originally adopted in 1992. The meeting is the decision-making body of the countries that signed onto the U.N. Framework.It is held to assess how well nations are dealing with climate change.
The body also establishes legally binding obligations on member countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What does COP26 stand for?
COP is short for “Conference of the Parties” because it is a conference of the parties or countries that signed the agreement. This is the 26th meeting of all the signatories. The first was in 1995 in Berlin. It was supposed to take place last year, but COP26 was postponed due to COVID-19.
Why is COP26 important? Point of no return is approaching fast
Before the industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million. The current measurement is 419 parts per million.
Scientists say humanity has about a decade to dramatically reduce heat-trapping gas emissions before thresholds are passedthat may make recovery from climate collapse impossible.
What are COP26 policy goals?
The overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius due to climate change. Through the burning of fossil fuels that add carbon dioxide and other gasses to the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature has already gone up an estimated 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.1 degrees Celsius.
Who’s is going to COP26?
Approximately 20,000 people will be attending the formal talks. They include government representatives, scientists and policy experts.
Aside from hundreds of world political leaders, other well-known names are planning to attend to signal the importance of grappling with climate change. Queen Elizabeth II has said she will be in Glasgow, along with Prince Charles and Camilla and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Dutchess of Cambridge. Pope Francis plans to attend, depending on his health.
Will President Biden attend COP26?
Yes. Biden will be there Nov. 1 and 2, during the World Leader Summit portion of the meeting but may not arrive able to promise much movement on the part of the United States. His Administration has been trying to pass a climate agenda as part of a larger infrastructure plan. As of last week, it had been blocked by Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who does not support the clean energy initiatives that are a centerpiece of the plan. Biden had hoped to come to Glasgow with a renewed U.S. commitment to lowering the nation’s greenhouse gas production, showing America can deliver on its promise to do its part. What he can actually come to the table with is as yet unclear.
Will Greta Thunberg be there? Who’s protesting?
Swedish climate activist and high school student Greta Thunberg plans to attend protests there during COP26. A climate rally scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6 is expected to drawas many as 150,000 people. More than 10,000 police officers will be deployed of the course of the 13-day conference from across Scotland and the United Kingdom.