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The UN COP 26 Climate Summit – why it matters to all of us

Oxford Friends of the Earth is a thriving and effective local group that has been active for over 40 years. Our purpose is to work together to promote a healthy and sustainable environment

The COP 26 Climate Summit is coming in 2021 – we should be ready

The 2021 United Nations ‘COP26’ climate change summit will be one of the largest gatherings of world leaders ever seen in the UK. They will coming to discuss solutions to the biggest global crisis of our time.

Oxford FoE are hosting a meeting on ‘The UN COP 26 climate conference – and why it matters’ on Weds. 2 Dec. 6 – 7.15pm.  Register to reserve your place:

https://actionnetwork.org/events/the-un-cop-26-climate-conference-and-why-it-matters

If the worst consequences of climate change are to be avoided, the Glasgow summit has to deliver real progress. This means that the UK has to be an effective leader.  We have to act now if we are to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the goal agreed in the UN Paris Agreement. As the country which led the industrial revolution and built our wealth on coal and oil, the UK has a responsibility to lead the just transition to a zero-carbon world.

COP26 is a critical because, under the 2015 UN ‘Paris Agreement’, this is when governments have pledged to step up and to improve their own commitments – their ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’. The targets they have set so far for cutting their own emissions are not enough to prevent dangerous climate change – we are still on course for over 3°C of devastating warming. This COP is when they agreed to revisit those targets.

Global emissions have increased in recent years. The Covid crisis has led to a global fall in 2020 of over 7% but this may be wiped out if we do not plan the recovery carefully.  The IPCC (the UN scientific advisors) has said that in order to achieve the 1.5°C target, the world needs to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. So 2021 has to be a year to deliver.

Why does action in the UK matter?

In 2019 the UK was the first G7 country to set a ‘net zero’ target in national law, committing to eliminate our territorial contribution to climate change within a generation. However, the UK cannot rest on its laurels. Emissions are not falling fast enough to meet the net zero target or even to meet goals under the 80% reduction target set in 2008.

The UK government – who will chair the conference – must push for real action.  But the Government cannot credibly claim to be a climate change leader – to set an example to other nations – unless it implements policies that demonstrably put us on track to reaching net zero as soon as possible and ending the UK’s contribution to climate change.

We – as civil society organisations – need to push the government to show real leadership. We must also reaffirm and strengthen our own local commitments.

True leadership means doing five things. Britain must:

  1. Use its diplomatic influence to close the gap between existing Paris Agreement pledges for 2030, and those needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C.
  2. Champion increasing financial support to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and manage loss and damage, ensuring this support reaches those who need it most.
  3. Support and fund nature-based solutions which can help to achieve net-zero emissions globally, whilst restoring the Earth’s precious ecosystems and biodiversity.
  4. Stop all new support for fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) overseas, phase-out existing investments, increase support for clean energy systems, and help deliver universal access to energy.
  5. Get our own house in order – enact new policies, laws and investment to put us unmistakably on the path to eliminating our carbon emissions as soon as possible.

What can we do locally?

We here in Oxfordshire (and in towns and cities across the UK) have roles to play.
We need to:

  • Lobby our MPs and push the UK government to show leadership
  • Make new commitments for action here
  • Ensure people across our area understand the importance of COP26
  • Encourage our councils to be active partners
  • Organise local events to build support
  • Support people to take part in events in Glasgow during COP26

You can download this text as a briefing document here.

We also need COP 26 to be a transparent and inclusive event,

with wide and diverse participation by civil society. Governments must ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard in Glasgow from impacted countries and marginalised groups. This especially includes women from the global south, who have been largely excluded from COPs to date, despite being on the frontlines of the crisis. Millions of people in developing countries are already living with the threat of climate change – homes are becoming uninhabitable, land unfarmable, access to clean water unpredictable and lives unbearable.  Richer countries are also suffering – as the fires in Australia and the USA have shown. The UK has also been hit by substantial and costly flooding.

This is a critical year. Christiana Figueres, who led the UN work on the Paris Climate Agreement has said that the decisions made at this COP “will decide the quality of life for every living thing on this planet for at least the next century.”

We face the challenge of the Covid pandemic alongside the climate emergency. But we cannot ‘wait until later’ to speed up action on climate.  We need to work together to make COP26 a genuinely successful event that puts the world on a route to a safer future.

For more on Glasgow and COP26 see:

The Climate Coalition  https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/cop26

 The COP 26 Coalition (a world wide civil society grouping based in Scotland) https://cop26coalition.org/the-coalition/

The ‘official’ page:  https://www.ukcop26.org/

Oxford Friends of the Earth will be working on this through 2021, and we will look to cooperate with all other groups who also want to see success at COP26. Contact us via climate@oxfoe.co.uk