Crucial summit on addressing global heating and averting catastrophe will bring together largest gathering of world leaders ever assembled on British soil
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop26) will finally commence in Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of October, a year after it was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hosted by the UK under the presidency of former business secretary Alok Sharma and in partnership with Italy, the summit at the city’s SEC Centre will bring together the biggest gathering of world leaders ever assembled on British soil over the course of its 12-day run from Sunday 31 October to Friday 12 November.
The Queen, Boris Johnson, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and US president Joe Biden will be among the visiting dignitaries, as will Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, the world’s two most famous climate activists, despite the latter criticising the event and expressing pessimism about its chances of achieving meaningful change.
Two high-profile absences might be Pope Francis, whose Vatican delegation is being led by secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who has indicated it might not be worth his time to travel to Scotland given Covid quarantine requirements.
However, the 197 signatories, or “parties”, to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will all be represented in Glasgow in some capacity, along with tens of thousands of negotiators, government officials, businesses and activists, all hoping to make their voices heard and see a comprehensive plan agreed on how to accelerate action towards the goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement and avert the climate catastrophe our planet faces.
Cop26’s specific stated concerns are: securing global net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and keeping Earth’s end-of-century temperature increase down to 1.5 degrees Celsius; adapting to protect communities and natural habitats on the frontline of extreme weather events caused by global heating; ensuring the developed world drums up at least $100bn in climate finance every year; and agreeing conditions under which the world can work together to tackle the crisis as one.
“Around the world storms, floods and wildfires are intensifying,” the Cop26 website states, underlining the urgency of the need to act.
“Air pollution sadly affects the health of tens of millions of people and unpredictable weather causes untold damage to homes and livelihoods too.
“But while the impacts of climate change are devastating, advances in tackling it are leading to cleaner air, creating good jobs, restoring nature and at the same time unleashing economic growth.
“Despite the opportunities we are not acting fast enough. To grip this crisis, countries need to join forces urgently.”
In addition to the many speeches, roundtable meetings and fringe events taking place in Glasgow, campaigners are expected to be out in force to keep the pressure on.
During Cop25 in December 2019, which was hosted by Chile but staged in Madrid, as many as 50,000 environmental activists took to the streets of the Spanish capital to demand an end to fossil fuel dependence.