COP – or Conference of Parties, is an annual United Nations climate summit where world leaders meet to discuss and make decisions on key global issues. In attendance will be countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) back in 1994. This year sees the arrival of the much-awaited COP26, following postponement from November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every year a different nation takes on presidency of the summit, and this year’s UK presidency, in partnership with Italy, will see the conference taking place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021. There are just under 100 days to go until COP26 begins, so we’ll be sharing lots of news in the coming weeks about our preparations here at the Met Office and how you can get involved.
This year’s COP is the 26th annual summit and is of particular significance as it will mark 5 years since the signing of the Paris agreement at COP21 in 2015. The Paris Agreement commits participating nations to the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees, above pre-industrial levels. Progress on the agreement will be reviewed every five years and updated plans laid out for the future, making this the first COP summit where progress is discussed amongst all committed nations. Following the declaration by the UK Government in 2020, that this is a “year of climate action”, there is much anticipation as to what this year’s COP will deliver.
At COP25 back in 2019, many key issues remained without unanimous resolution. In light of this, as well as the ever-increasing threat of global warming, COP26 is considered to be an event of particular urgency, and one that experts hope will signify an acceleration of proactive global efforts to combat climate change. Over 190 world leaders are expected to attend the conference in Glasgow, where they will be joined by government representatives, businesses, non-profit organisations and citizens for 12 days of climate talks. Amongst the discussion points of the summit, there are some fundamental goals that the UK will strive to achieve. These include:
- securing global Net Zero emissions by the middle of the century and continuing to strive towards limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels;
- the deployment of adaptation measures to protect vulnerable communities and natural habitats from the impacts of climate change;
- the mobilisation of financial aid by developed countries to achieve global Net Zero; and
- acceleration of collaborations between governments, business and society in order to achieve ambitious climate goals.
Preparation is well and truly underway ahead of the conference in November, with a busy timeline of events aimed to further the UK’s progress towards delivery of its goals. More information on the pre-COP26 event schedule can be found on the COP26 website.
At the Met Office, we’ve also been busy with preparations ahead of the start of the summit in just under 100 days’ time. We’ve coordinated several COP related events, such as our Climate Science Conference in May, which brought together scientists, policy makers and communicators in a virtual conference to explore how climate science and services can create a more sustainable and resilient future. The event focused on a number of climate themes, with the goal of laying out a scientific agenda to inform climate policy during the COP26 event itself and until the end of the decade.
We’ve also made our own commitment towards the government’s Net Zero pledge, with our own Journey to Net Zero by 2030. As part of this commitment, we will work towards achieving Net Zero emissions through all of our activities by investing in renewable energy solutions, reducing carbon emissions and engaging in carbon offsetting schemes to counterbalance any unavoidable outputs.
Much of our ongoing climate research informs government policy and is of particular relevance to the COP26 aims and ambitions. Our Hadley Centre Climate Programme undertakes research into climate change to determine the cause of such changes and develop services to manage climate risk.
Albert Klein Tank, scientific director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, one of the UK’s leading climate research centres, discusses how Met Office research informs COP negotiations:
“At the Met Office, the run up to COP is perhaps even more important than the event itself, where our role is less visible. In the run up to COP, the Hadley Centre keeps the government informed on the latest science and information on climate projections. We will contribute to the latest IPCC report which will come out in August, which will also inform the international negotiations. It’s really about aligning and making all of the latest evidence available so that the impacts and the local impacts of particular extreme events and how they can be attributed to climate change and to human interference is clear.”
Some people have said that COP is a large gathering of people without much progress, but I feel much more optimistic. I think the fact that international communities and governments are coming together demonstrates that this really is at the top of their agenda, and with climate change growing and with the evidence of the impacts of climate change growing, this collaboration is really needed, and it is really timely.”
For COP26 and future COP events, the Met Office will continue to collaborate with other research organisations, governments and policy makers on the shared goal of tackling climate change and moving towards a resilient net zero future. By working with other organisations and communicating our findings to key audiences, we hope to strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader in tackling climate change and as a key provider of robust global science. In doing this we will ensure our credibility as hosts of COP26 in November whilst also maintaining a legacy which extends into the coming decades, when a united global response to climate research will become increasingly urgent.
You can learn more about COP26 and how the Met Office is involved through the following links: