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 COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? 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.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

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 COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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