While the G20 continues in Rome on Sunday morning, an important UN conference on climate change is finally starting.
The 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention – known as COP26 – was postponed last year due to the pandemic.
World leaders will attend the annual event and many G20 leaders will travel to Glasgow after the Rome Summit closes. No world leaders are expected to speak on the opening day of COP26.
Much of the discussions during the climate summit will take place between ministers and other high-level officials dealing with climate issues.
Why COP26 is important:
The conferences are massive events with many side meetings that attract business people, fossil fuel companies, climate activists, and other groups with an interest in the climate crisis. Some of them are successful – the Paris Agreement, for example, was drafted during COP21 – and others are painfully unproductive.
After the COP21 meeting in 2015, more than 190 countries signed the Paris Agreement to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but preferably to 1.5 degrees.
Half a degree might not sound like a big difference, but scientists say any additional warming above 1.5 degrees will trigger more intense and frequent climatic extremes. According to the UN, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees could mean that around 420 million people are less frequently exposed to extreme heat waves.
Scientists see 2 degrees as a critical threshold at which extreme weather conditions would turn some of the most densely populated areas in the world into uninhabitable deserts or inundate them with seawater.
Although the Paris Agreement marked a milestone in tackling the climate crisis, it did not provide details on how the world would achieve its goal. The subsequent COPs tried to make the plans attached to it more ambitious and to concretise options for action.
“On paper, the Paris Agreement has always been designed as a cyclical process – ‘in five years, with better plans and renewed efforts,'” said Lola Vallejo, director of the climate program at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. “So at the moment we are on this deadline, which has been postponed by Covid.
Before the opening of COP26, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a dire warning on Friday. He said that “there is a serious risk that (the Glasgow conference) will not deliver” because the formal commitments by governments are still insufficient, and even “at best, temperatures will still get well above two degrees.” rise. ”
Guterres called for greater ambition in containment and ambition in climate finance.