Will the COP26 climate conference really keep 1.5C alive?

Scientists say that if the average global temperature rises by more than 1.5C the consequences will be hugely damaging. Credit: PA

I am wondering whether I've been naive in thinking that the COP26 climate conference draft cover declaration will keep 1.5C alive, and whether I have attached too much weight to paragraph 29 that "requests" countries toughen up their commitments to reduce emissions before 2030.

My concern, reinforced by the US agreement with China, is that China will feel under little pressure to bring forward its commitment that its greenhouse gas emissions should peak by 2030.

And unless China becomes more ambitious, there is no prospect of global warming being limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Much will depend therefore on how paragraph 29 is implemented.

There will be a huge and heavy burden on Alok Sharma as COP president for a year - and by implication on Boris Johnson too - to be guardian and de facto police officer for paragraph 29.

Will they pressurise and shame those countries, led by but not remotely restricted to China, that are not doing enough to cut emissions in the short term?

Will the UK government rise to the challenge?

COP26 will only be a historic agreement if it initiates a credible process to cut emissions.

It must be a beginning, not an end.

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

Back to top

What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

Back to top