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COP26: Everything you need to know

The UN Climate Change Conference is coming to Glasgow and Vodafone will be there. But what exactly is COP26 and what does it hope to achieve?

What is COP26?

It’s a big international climate change conference happening in Glasgow from Sunday 31 October to Friday 12 November.

What does COP stand for?

It stands for Conference of the Parties, which refers to the body of representatives of the many countries that have signed up to international treaties for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement).

Who set it up?

The United Nations (UN) in 1995, which is why COP is also known as the UN Climate Change Conference. While the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has won a Nobel Prize for its comprehensive scientific reports on the severity of climate change, the UN’s Climate Change Conferences assess the world’s progress in dealing with the issue.

How often does COP take place?

COP takes place once a year. This year’s Conference was originally due to take place in 2020 but was delayed by a year due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Why is it in Glasgow?

A different country holds the COP presidency each year and hosts the Conference in its choice of location. This year it’s the UK’s turn and it’s chosen Glasgow as the host city. COP26 will be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted.

Who’s going?

Most countries that are members of COP are sending their heads of government. As a result, the most high-profile world leaders will be in the limelight, from US President Joe Biden to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The Queen has said she won’t be attending for health reasons. Various business leaders, non-governmental organisations, scientists, climate activists and academics will also be attending, from Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough to Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam.

Why do we need COP26?

We are seeing more extreme weather events around the world – droughts, fires, floods, melting glaciers and the destruction of natural habitats and their flora and fauna. The past decade was the warmest on record. The global scientific consensus is that climate change is being caused by human behaviour, largely through the burning of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Governments from across the world agree that urgent action is needed to tackle climate change and that time is running out.

What are they hoping to achieve?

As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less, COP countries are expected to increase their targets for reducing emissions once every five years. The latest five-year mark falls during COP26 in Glasgow, so new targets, pledges and plans are hoped for from all COP countries.

Civil society figures and protestors will almost certainly try to draw attention to what they see as insufficient or vague promises from COP nations and put pressure on heads of state to accelerate action.

Delegates from developing countries, which emit fewer emissions but will probably suffer more from climate change than anyone else, will be pushing for greater financial aid to help them cope with the numerous effects of hotter global temperatures. Such aid was promised as part of the Paris Agreement.

It’s also likely that particular attention will be paid to how quickly individual countries say they will reach ‘net zero’.

What is ‘net zero’?

Net zero is the point at which the amount of greenhouse gas we produce is matched by the amount removed from the atmosphere – when we reach equilibrium.

Why is Vodafone at COP26?

Vodafone Group is committed to transforming how it, and others, do business to tackle climate change and reduce e-waste. It wants to contribute to a zero-carbon future and aims to reach net zero, across 21 countries, by 2040. Vodafone’s digital technologies, such as Internet of Things, data analytics and 5G, can play a key role in reducing emissions.

Being at COP26 gives the company the opportunity to meet other business leaders, share best practice, shape the debate, and learn from others.

Ahmed Essam, Vodafone’s UK CEO, will be speaking at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ COP26 conference – ‘Tech for Climate Action’ – about how Vodafone is achieving its climate change targets and how its technologies are helping customers reduce their carbon footprints, too.

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