The UN Climate COP (Conference of the Parties) is basically a massive gathering of all the world’s governments and their delegations, who are negotiating a deal to respond to climate change. The first was held in Berlin in 1995. COP26 is the 26th annual conference. In essence it’s just a very big meeting. The conferences (COPs) are attended by world leaders, ministers, and negotiators but also by representatives from civil society, business, international organizations, and the media. These are the people at the heart of the COP negotiations in what is termed the ‘Blue Zone’. There are all sorts of activities and side events in the Blue Zone run by governments and delegations often focused on key topics such as island communities, indigenous groups or climate justice.

Outside the Blue Zone is the Green Zone, mostly focused around the Glasgow Science Centre, and a space with more organisations represented who sit outside the main conference but support it or use it as a focus. Many of these bodies are businesses who are in most part promoting technologies. Others are interest groups or NGOs and there is a programme of events throughout the day in the Green Zone. This zone is ticketed and restricted, but not part of the formal negotiations.

Outside of the Green Zone, spread throughout Glasgow and beyond, are all the rest of the many other interest groups. Scottish Government for example has a base in the Lighthouse in Glasgow and other groups, especially NGOs and business representative bodies are spread throughout venues across the city, particularly at the Universities, City Chambers and public spaces. There are large number of campaign groups in this fringe to COP and hundreds of events, most of which are likely to be public access. And then in the streets themselves, there are likely to be protestors demanding action from the COP itself. There are between 30,000 and 40,000 people expected in total, although some may well not travel because of Covid restrictions or worries.

This negotiation in Glasgow is important because it is the first COP aimed at increasing the commitments made by almost every country in the world in Paris in 2015. Paris set a framework in place for ‘ratcheting up’ commitments every 5 years and most countries signed up. This is the first of those 5 year steps. The commitments offered by the world’s governments at COP21 in Paris are purely voluntary, and were insufficient. They were predicted to lead to a 3.7 degrees centigrade increase in global temperature. Scientists wanted to see commitments which amounted to less than 2 degrees C (and ideally less than 1.5C). The commitments by each country coming to Glasgow (called NDCs) need to be more stringent, and so the easiest test of success of Glasgow is to see what temperature increase they collectively add up to. We are already close to a 1.5C increase in average global temperatures since pre-industrial times, so time is short and efforts need to be a lot better than at Paris.

The other big test is whether or not an agreement can be reached to fund those poorer nations most affected by climate change. In 2009 governments agreed that richer nations needed to mobilize $100Bn/year by 2020 to fund climate action, but so far this has not been forthcoming.

The COP will also focus on a number of specifics. There will be a lot of talk about Adaptation (protecting communities from climate changes), biodiversity and nature based solutions (utilising and strengthening natural defences against climate and in the process helping biodiversity eg. more trees, protecting peatlands, growing mangroves to protect islands etc), and getting more representation form marginalised communities, (especially the global south, indigenous and inuit leaders and other voices who are often not heard.

Who to watch? There are several countries who carry a lot of weight in these negotiations and are currently not doing enough. The most obvious are the USA, but also Australia, Canada, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia. There are some very influential countries who are likely to also impact the negotiations (and the likelihood of a successful global agreement) as they have large and growing footprints, countries like China, India and also Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa. But it is also keeping an eye out for those countries which are at the forefront of making commitments. This includes leading nations like Scotland and UK, Sweden, Costa Rica, Denmark, Morocco, Egypt and US states like California and to a lesser degree the EU.

Overall, we need every Government to agree much more significant cuts to emissions, that put us on a trajectory to less than 1.5C increase in temperatures. We also need the money to help this transition away from fossil fuels and to support the poorer nations already being impacted. And above all else we need the willingness and agreement to collaborate and accelerate actions to make up for lost time. The first 25 annual COPs have not produced enough commitment to avert the worst of climate change, so we really need Glasgow (the 26th) to deliver. Further resources Visit You can request a screening of our new film – Scotland : Our Climate Journey, plus our COP26 special magazine and our Young Geographer magazine on climate justice.

Further resources

Visit   You can request a screening of our new film – Scotland : Our Climate Journey, plus our COP26 special magazine and our Young Geographer magazine on climate justice.