COP 26: Our last best chance?

By Dr Mark Galpin

From Sunday 31 October to Friday 12 November, world leaders meet in Glasgow for the 26th round of climate change talks, known as COP26. COP stands for ‘Conference of Parties’ and is the summit meeting for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC - known as the UN triple C). Approximately 200 countries will be represented, and over 30,000 people involved, including negotiating parties from each country, civil society delegates, scientific advisors and the media. 

This gathering comes after the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s top scientific body for climate change, declared a ‘code red for humanity’[1]. Over the last few months and years we have all heard news of extreme weather events impacting people across the globe, and perhaps have experienced this for ourselves. Weather records are regularly being broken – extreme heatwaves, drought and wildfires, and catastrophic flooding are devastating people’s lives and the natural world around us. While there continue to be those that doubt the science, the IPCC has no doubt that it is human activity, particularly the emission of carbon dioxide and other green-house gases, that is causing global temperatures to rise and triggering these changes in our climate and weather patterns.

However, the IPCC believes that if we act swiftly and decisively then there is a chance to avoid the most extreme impacts of climate change. COP26 is the world’s last best chance to avoid triggering further catastrophic changes in our global circulatory system. The science is clear. The question is whether there is enough political will at the national and global level to make the changes that are needed.

What changes are needed?

Four goals have been identified, which need to be achieved next week[2]:

1. Secure global net zero (CO2 emissions) by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees (global average temperature increase) within reach

Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

To deliver these stretching targets, countries will need to:

  • accelerate the phase-out of coal
  • curtail deforestation
  • speed up the switch to electric vehicles
  • encourage investment in renewables.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.

At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:

  • protect and restore ecosystems
  • build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.

3. Mobilise finance

To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.

International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.

4. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.

At COP26 we must:

  • finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement from COP21 in 2015 operational)
  • accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

These are eye-wateringly ambitious goals and require a level of commitment that has yet to be witnessed by global leaders, on this or any other issue. But this is the minimum that is needed if the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided. The likely cost of the alternative future ­– both financially and in human lives – are much higher.

The Paris agreement in 2015 to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels[3] was a huge achievement, but while significant progress has been made, global green-house gas emissions have not fallen fast enough to achieve this target. A very significant acceleration in the pace of change is needed.

As Christians our belief is that we as humans were delegated authority to actively steward and look after the earth on God’s behalf (Genesis 1.28). This is a role that we still have, and will have into eternity! (See Revelation 22:3–5).

So, what does this look life during COP26? I believe the most significant thing we can do during this critical week of COP26 is to get on our hands and knees and pray!

For:

  • Political leaders to have the courage and wisdom to make the necessary commitments for their own nations, to achieve these wider goals.
  • For a sense of responsibility among decision makers to people living in poverty and future generations.
  • For a sense of unity and shared purpose among all delegates.
  • For the UK as the host nation to set an example for other nations in the boldness of the commitments made.
  • For wisdom and perseverance for the Right Honourable Alok Sharma (MP), who is chairing the summit. 

Here are some other prayer resources that you can use:

https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Prayer-resources/COP26-prayer

https://ywam.org/prayer/pray-for-the-cop26-climate-conference/

https://wea-sc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/COP26-Prayer-points_English.pdf

https://greenchristian.org.uk/pray-for-cop26/

[Related blog posts: How to be a peacemaker in the politics of climate change]

 

Dr Mark Galpin is the Postgraduate Programme Leader and Lecturer in Poverty and Justice Studies at All Nations Christian College. He also leads some of our Advanced Short Courses, exploring issues in creation care, gender, inequality, justice, and community transformation.

* The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent the views of All Nations Christian College, only the views of the author.

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