SCIAF's guide to COP 2020
Next winter, tens of thousands of politicians, diplomats, scientists and activists will descend on Glasgow all saying they want to solve the Climate Crisis. We have to make them mean it. Ben Wilson, Policy Officer at SCIAF, writes about why Alliance members, allies and civil society more widely, must mobilise now to ensure effective participation in next year’s historic Climate Conference.
Recently, as a country, we have taken crucial steps to tackle the Climate Emergency. Scotland’s new Climate Change Bill, which was passed at the end of September, makes good progress in key areas. It sets a strong target to reduce our emissions. Delivering these will require changes to our way of life for the better, and involve building a cleaner, healthier and fairer Scotland.
During the process of the Bill, political commitment to addressing climate change has dramatically increased as a result of the growing mass movement of people including young people around the world, calling for more urgent action to address climate change. This proves that people power works. We need to commit the same energy and commitment to making our voices heard in Glasgow next year.
Last month, the UK was officially confirmed to be the host of COP 26 in 2020, with Glasgow as the host city. COP 26 is the 26th “Conference of Parties” under the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In short – it is a huge international climate conference, the biggest conference of its kind that the UK will ever have hosted, and the biggest opportunity for mass civil society mobilisation for global justice since the G8 came to Gleneagles in 2005.
It was at COP 21 in 2015 that the landmark Paris Agreement was reached, which commits countries to take action to ensure that global average temperature increases are kept “well below” 2C and to “pursue efforts” towards limiting global warming to 1.5C. In October 2018, the official scientific body which advises the UNFCCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a landmark report that shows the devastating impact of exceeding 1.5C of global warming, and that we could reach this level as soon as 2030. That report showed the world that the real target countries must not exceed is 1.5C, and the consequences of missing that target are millions more people exposed to heatwaves, droughts and annihilation of natural resources upon which they rely.
However, whilst every country of the world is now a signatory to the Paris Agreement, current national pledges for action are wholly inadequate in meeting this goal. Based on what countries have currently pledged to do to reduce emissions, the world is on a trajectory towards 3.5C of global warming, and the consequences of that would be cataclysmic.
COP 26 will be the most important COP since Paris. Indeed, this COP will be one of the first tests of the Paris Agreement, as it marks the 5-year point when countries must submit new and increased “Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)” which state their intended ratcheting up of domestic contributions to global efforts. This is a tremendous opportunity for Scotland to show the world our concern for the climate crisis, to engage and inform the Scottish public about this emergency, and show that it cannot be treated as a fringe issue any longer.
Every COP involves technical, often tedious negotiations, when thousands of negotiators, politicians and policy makers meet to thrash out agreements and cobble together commitments for action. This technical theatre is shaped by some of the richest countries who insist on being centre stage while side-stepping their responsibilities. At the same time the poorest countries in the world, who’ve done least to cause the crisis, cry out for justice as their people suffer most.
Around the central circus of the negotiations, a carnival of civil society groups, including trade unions, faith communities, youth groups, NGOs and peoples’ movements will congregate, to submerge the negotiators in their cries for action. COP coming to Glasgow is a huge opportunity for SCIAF to carry the voices of our supporters and partners to the summit and breathe fire into the carnival.