2 November 2021

The Challenges of COP26


The COP, or Conference of Parties, is an annual summit that brings together the signatory countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The COP 26 is thus the 26th since the treaty of 21st of March 1994.

After being postponed for a year due to the health crisis, more than 190 world leaders and civil society actors (companies, NGOs, indigenous peoples, scientists…) will take part in a two-week meeting in Glasgow, from October 31st to November 12th.

This conference is being prepared well in advance with diplomatic meetings and negotiations.

The absence of the Chinese, Russian and Brazilian presidents is to be regretted. As well as the under-representation of the most vulnerable countries at this conference, notably because of vaccination and the particularly high cost of travel and accommodation on site.

This COP comes in a unique context, a few months after the IPCC Group 1 report. The report confirms the extent of climate change, which is unequivocally linked to human activities, and that the next decade is crucial to act and reduce our GHG emissions.

This summer’s extreme weather events can testify to this. Heat waves, floods, climate migrants, fires, climate famines, droughts are already indicative of global warming. Degrees or tenths of a degree will have dramatic consequences.

Degrees of Global Warming: the solid line show 5-year average of global land and ocean temperature anomalies (NOAA). Dotted lines show different percentiles of warming predictions according to Raftery et.al, 2017. Graphique Gregor Aisch

In 2015, COP21 took place in Paris, resulting in climate agreements to curb global warming. Countries set targets to reduce their GHG emissions, the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

Today, the carbon footprint of a French person is 11 tonnes of CO2 per year. To respect the Paris agreements, this footprint must be reduced to 2 tons of CO2 per year in 2050, i.e. a reduction of 80%. We invite you to calculate your carbon footprint with the ADEME calculator.

We know that individual change is required and that it is important for everyone to do their part, but in order to tackle the climate emergency, change must be systemic. Businesses, governments and states must undergo a major transformation.

The UN recalled this autumn that current commitments are leading the planet towards a “catastrophic” global warming of 2.7°C, far from the 1.5°C targets of the Paris Agreements. “It is time for leaders to stand and deliver or people in all countries will pay a tragic price” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

To reverse this trend, it is vital to halve global greenhouse gas emissions over the next ten years. During the COP26, countries are expected to announce new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


The four targets presented by the French government are the following:

1. Raising climate ambition. States that have not yet made a commitment must announce their new climate ambition, by updating their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and publishing long-term strategies for 2050.

2. Finalise the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement provides mechanisms for countries to trade emission reductions to achieve their NDCs. A decision by the international community is needed to make these mechanisms operational.

3. Mobilise climate finance. Developed countries have pledged to mobilise $100 billion for developing countries for each year from 2020 to 2025. However, this is not enough and there are still differences of opinion on climate finance.

4. Strengthen the Action Agenda. The Paris Agreement encourages states to cooperate with non-state actors within an Action Agenda that brings together multiple initiatives by major sectors, such as the International Solar Alliance


Similar objectives can be found on the official COP26 website (see above)

The countries of the South are the first victims of climate change and suffer the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions for which they are not in the majority of cases responsible. It is therefore necessary to really finance developing countries to the tune of 100 billion per year, as was planned in 2009, but which has still not been met. Climate justice is therefore a major issue.

There is a need to get real commitment from states by closing the gap between words and deeds. The problem is that the promises made by states to achieve carbon neutrality are often vague and not reflected in medium-term commitments. Some measures are vital: stop the exploitation of fossil fuels (in particular the use of coal), encourage investment in renewables, switch to electric vehicules, curtail deforestation, reduce other greenhouse gas emissions such as methane.

They also need to focus on finance as a lever for the ecological transition. Today, too many banks finance fossil fuel investments that are totally at odds with climate ambitions. You can check the Divest the Dirt campaign from our friends from POW UK

Finally, climate and biodiversity are inseparable. Today, 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. There can be no fight against climate change without taking our ecosystems into account. We must address these two crises together and protect biodiversity to fight against global warming.

So far, the COPs have not prevented greenhouse gas emissions from continuing to rise. Whether one is pessimistic or sceptical about the outcome of this COP that we shouldn’t overestimate, this summit remains crucial. International cooperation, though imperfect and laborious, is absolutely necessary. Each state cannot only deal with its own carbon emissions and the atmosphere above it, climate change is a global problem that needs to be addressed at the international level. The COP also serves to mobilise civil society and raise public awareness.

We try to stay positive because we can still do something about it. Climate change is real, very real and will continue irreversibly. But every tenth of a degree counts, every tonne of CO2 counts. It is still possible to act, because the level of global warming we experience in the future will depend largely on our current emissions.

If our younger generations believe and fight (see Youth4Climate manifesto), we must join their voices and demand with them to face the climate emergency urgently, “not next year, not next month but now”.

We invite you to follow the issues of the COP, while remaining measured and attentive to the greenwashing and announcement effects.

COP 26 explained

COP 26 Jargon

David Attenborough Speech

Climate Action Nework Cop 26 Agenda

Climate Justice Movement

Words: Alice de Chilly

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