COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. The ‘Parties’ are governments from all over the world. This is the 26th time the ‘Parties’ have met to discuss climate change and so this is ‘COP26’. COP26 takes place in Glasgow in November 2021. It should have taken place in 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
The Parties are the group of nations who signed the 1994 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (The UNFCCC). The UNFCCC is a treaty which agreed to stop dangerous climate change, and it was signed by 197 ‘Parties’; 196 countries and the European Union.
The UNFCCC aimed to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human-caused climate change. Signing it means a country has committed to defining national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level that protects our climate.
In 1994 most of the world’s governments agreed to meet every year to work together to limit climate change; these meetings are the ‘COPs’.
COP26 will open on October 31st and be followed by a World Leaders Summit on November 1st and 2nd. The summit will then discuss the topics below. The full programme can be found here.
The Finance day will discuss how governments will mobilise public and private finance for climate mitigation and adaptation. This is an important discussion as it addresses how the nations that caused climate change, in the developed world, will help the nations who will be most severely impacted by it, in the developing world.
Thursday is Energy day when the summit will discuss how to speed up the global transition to clean energy.
Friday is Youth Climate Action day when the summit will discuss how to elevate the voice of young people and the critical role of public empowerment and education in climate action.
Saturday is Nature day when the summit will address how to ensure nature and sustainable land use are part of global action on climate change and a clean, green future.
The COP has a rest day on November 7th ahead of a busy second week of negotiations.
This day looks at how practical solutions needed to adapt to climate impacts, loss and damage can be delivered.
In Gender discussions, the summit will examine how to progress gender equality and the full and meaningful participation of women and girls in climate action. The science and innovation sessions will focus on demonstrating how science and innovation can deliver climate solutions.
The summit will discuss the global transition to zero emission transport.
The summit will explore how to advance climate action in the places where people live.
You could pick one of the days above to explore a particular topic with learners.
Some possible class investigation topics are below.
Explore the concept of ‘climate justice’ and the mechanisms in place to finance climate adaptation in the developing world. There is a good introduction video with a case study from The Philippines here that could form the basis for a class discussion.
Renewable energy is a great topic for a class investigation. Wales has a particular specialism in marine renewables with large scale schemes being explored in several locations. The Schools resources of Marine Energy Wales are a good place to start.
Explore climate action as a concept and carry out a class exercise to imagine what a better climate and environment future might look like. ‘A Message from The Future’ is a video about what a green future might look like, by American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex and climate writer Naomi Klein. It is a great video to start a class discussion imagining what a sustainable future might look like and what climate action is needed to get us there.
Introduce the concept of ‘nature-based solutions’ using this guide from WWF and carry out an exercise to identify nature-based solutions happening in Wales. Project Seagrass is a great case study to use.
Climate adaptation is all about practical solutions. Older learners (Key Stages 4 and 5) could explore the UK’s adaptation plans through the Climate Change Committee’s recent progress report. The report could be used to discuss what aspects of climate adaptation are going well in the UK, and which are not progressing fast enough. Which of the 6 key adaptation risk areas for the UK are likely to be most serious for Wales?
The topic of science and innovation to solve climate change is enormous and it can be hard to know where to start. A good way to start a discussion about why technology and science innovation is important to solving climate change is to explore the Earthshot Prize project and to explore some of the 2021 project finalists. What are the projects attempting to do and how will them combat climate change?
Explore why climate change is a gender issue by asking the class to think about why climate change might particularly affect women and girls in the developing world? There are good introductions to the topic of climate change and gender here and here.
Have a discussion about travel issues in the class; how do students travel to school and how would they like to travel to school? Research the Welsh Active Travel Act and what it means for our cities and towns. Students could investigate an Active Travel scheme in their area and how it has impacted transport.
You might think a meeting about climate change has lots of scientists at it! In fact, most people who attend the COP meetings are not scientists at all, they are government negotiators, politicians, and the press. The science research is done before a COP; the meeting is for those who will write the science into law to discuss it. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assesses climate science and publishes their findings in reports. The latest report found that climate change is now widespread across the globe, rapid and intensifying and that stabilising our climate requires strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions soon. You can read the latest IPCC climate change report here. The aim of the COP is to work out how to implement the changes recommended on the basis of the science.
The main aim of COP26 is to speed up action by countries to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The COP26 tagline is “Uniting The World To Tackle Climate Change”.
The COP26 tagline is “Uniting The World To Tackle Climate Change”. If you were organising a climate change event what would its moto be and what would you aim to achieve?
At the meeting the countries all present and discuss their national greenhouse gas emissions targets (these are called Nationally Determined Contributions) and try to agree targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a government document called ‘COP26 Explained’ available here that could form the background of a lesson for Key Stage 4 and 5 learners.
How does this government document on the COP contrast and compare to a similar document from an environmental group or a document about the COP from a wildlife charity or one from a consumer magazine.
Do the different agencies have different focuses and why might that be?
One of the most important COPs was the 21st, held in Paris in 2015. At COP21 The Parties signed the Paris Agreement which was a legally binding agreement for the Parties to work together to limit global warming to well below 2°C and preferably to 1.5°C. compared to pre-industrial levels. 2021 was the date set for countries to agree the emissions targets needed to achieve this.
Unfortunately, the latest Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change report concluded that we are missing the 1.5°C to 2°C target because counties have not reduced their emissions by enough, yet. The global average temperature of Earth is likely to rise by another 1.5°C over the next two decades. This would give a total temperature rise (total global warming) since preindustrial times of about 2.9°C degrees by 2100, way above the Paris agreement targets. COP26 aims to fix this and bring the likely total warming back down to meet the Paris Agreement target. One message being shared is that COP26 wants to ‘Keep 1.5 Alive’ meaning the conference aims to develop the ambitious emissions reductions promises needed to meet the most ambitious of the Paris agreement targets.
Information on the four COP26 Goals is below and here.