Image source, EPA
Image caption Climate change has been linked to severe weather, such as the flooding that killed 200 Germans this summer

Will COP26 bring about a climate change “turning point,” as Boris Johnson hopes, or more of what Greta Thunberg calls “blah blah,” at COP26?

The situation is not promising at first glance. It’s because 25 giant conferences have failed to stop the flow of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.

After three decades worth of discussion, our planet now is at least 1C higher than pre-industrial levels. This number will only rise.

Even if we all keep our emissions promises, the danger of an increase of up to 2.7C will continue.

However, the expectations of real progress at this conference are much higher than normal.

Because the dangers are being felt at home, this is partially why. In Germany 200 people were killed by floods this year. Canada was hit hard with heatwaves and the Siberian Arctic was even in flames.

Now scientists have strong evidence that humans are responsible for climate change, making extremes much more likely.

These figures also make it clearer than ever before that to prevent the worst temperatures, we must reduce our carbon emissions by half by 2030. That deadline is close enough for us to be focused.

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Now, we see something unprecedented even just a few years back: An unprecedented flurry countries and companies, some more convincingly than others, vowing to reach net zero before mid-century.

They should also be able to absorb the same amount from the atmosphere as they were releasing, such greenhouse gases by tree planting or other methods.

Glasgow will be the place where we shift to a zero carbon future.

However, this is unlikely to happen in a single meeting.

The COPs were created specifically to help governments address climate change. However, the annual conference is still the best forum for addressing the issue together.

They work by agreement between almost 200 countries, which all hold very diverse perspectives.

One official said to me, “Try herding 200 cats.”

Numerous countries rich in coal or oil have attempted to slow down the climate agenda by being outright hostile.

Some people are more vulnerable and poor than others and see rising temperatures as threatening their existence. They are in desperate need of help.

The pace of the talks was mirrored by the glacial weather at the first COP I attended in Montreal in 2005.

Overnight, negotiators argued over “square brackets” that indicated unresolved or impenetrable points within a text which was never intended to leave any trace.

They finally came to an agreement in the early hours of the morning. When I saw Margaret Beckett, then UK Environment Secretary, with tears in both her eyes and a smile on her face I asked a veteran observer why.

Without irony, he stated that “they’ve agreed not to stop talking” The process goes on.

Conferences have continued, though more productively so, although there were some heartbreaking scenes in the nine conferences I have witnessed.

A frustrated German minister asked me why no one came to Nairobi 2006 when I was there.

2007: In Bali, the UN’s top official began weeping in public after he had been exhausted.

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In Copenhagen, 2009, the talk almost collapsed because of poor hosting.

However, one ex-UK government advisor, who was involved in those negotiations in Denmark suggests that COPs can be an important mechanism, regardless of their shortcomings.

According to Professor Mike Jacobs (now at the University of Sheffield), “emissions wouldn’t have risen further than they are”.

According to him, governments can stay on top of the issue by having a “simultaneous and collective commitment”.

This led to Paris 2015, the COP which stands out as an exceptional example of success.

France’s government was supported by an alliance that had been carefully nurtured to bring about the Paris Agreement. It is the first agreement of its type to combat climate change.

This historic moment was significant because it represented the first time in history that all countries agreed to cooperate to keep temperatures from rising to 2C (or lower if practical, 1.5C).

  • The most urgent problem facing the planet is climate change. If we want to stop global warming, governments must make more aggressive cuts in greenhouse gases.
  • Glasgow’s summit is the place where you can see change. It is important to be aware of the statements made by some of the biggest polluters in the world, such as the US or China. Also, you need to monitor whether the poorer nations are receiving the assistance they require.
  • Everything in our lives is going to change. This could have an impact on our employment, heating our homes and what we eat. It also can affect how we travel.

Find out more information about the COP26 summit.

The most complicated details were left out and it is voluntary. No country has to reduce its emission faster than they want.

Professor Jacobs believes that the creation of a global framework created a feeling of momentum which has proven to be significant.

This is because governments around the globe are setting more ambitious targets for renewable energy and phasing out diesel and petrol cars. Businesses can see that this agenda is being seriously pursued.

Investments in solar and wind power are now so large that they have fallen in cost, making a transition to zero carbon more possible.

As long as the Glasgow talks do not collapse in anger, this signal for a better direction will get more attention.

This could lead to big investors shifting their trillions out of fossil fuels. Just a few days ago, Europe’s biggest pension fund stated that it was doing just that.

Already giant carmakers must prepare to move to electric vehicles, while shipping companies, which have been long accused of being slow in responding to demands for improvement are now under increased pressure.

More people are embracing the idea of decarbonizing even polluting industries with so-called “green cement” and “green steel”.

But the main question is how fast this responds.

Based on the evidence, it appears that greenhouse gas emissions may rise by 16%, rather than decrease by 45%.

Even if things don’t change for a week, there will be accusations of failure.

The second problem is financing for poor countries. They are most affected by rising sea levels and flooding, as well as needing financial assistance to get green.

The people have long been disappointed by the lack of promises made, and they feel let down.

One of the skeptics about the entire process is Prof Saleemul Huq. He serves as an adviser to Bangladesh’s prime minister.

“This is unnecessary. It’s not like climate change only once per year is an issue.

“It is happening right now, for everyone, every single day, and not in the future. It needs our attention constantly.”

What is Prof Huq anticipating?

I’m sure they will pull it off, but journalists need to verify the details.

The conferences are a focal point for climate action, but cannot lead to transformation overnight.

Montreal’s observer was correct: It is about a process.

As a sign that Glasgow has managed its expectations, talk is rumbling about the next gatherings, COP27 in Egypt and possibly COP28 in Qatar.

If climate change must be controlled, the COP26 international climate summit will take place in Glasgow on November 26. It will be important to make significant changes in our daily lives by asking nearly 200 countries for information about their plans to reduce emissions.

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