COP26: what is the UN climate change summit in Glasgow, dates, why is it important - and how can I volunteer?

The major global conference will take place in Scotland in November 2021, after it was postponed due to the Covid pandemic
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council on climate and security at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in February (Getty Images)Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council on climate and security at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in February (Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council on climate and security at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in February (Getty Images)

It is believed to be the most significant global meeting to ever take place in the UK.

The UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 will take place in November 2021 in Glasgow, after it was postponed last year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

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During the two-week summit, representatives from more than 200 countries will descend on the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) to discuss the climate crisis and plans to tackle it on a global level.

As well as heads of state, climate experts, environmental activists and campaigners will be in attendance, rendering the event as crucial in the fight against climate change.

The UK Government has pledged to reduce the country’s carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050.

So, what exactly is COP26, why is it so important - and how can you sign up to volunteer at the summit?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is COP26?

The need for drastic action to tackle the climate crisis has never been more apparent.

Now, the US, China, EU, UK and 97 other countries have stated that by 2050 their overall emissions of carbon dioxide will be zero.

But new decisions on how to cut carbon emissions need to be made, which is one of the purposes of COP26.

COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and this 2021 summit - which will run from 1 to 12 November - is the 26th since they began.

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The summit, which is the biggest the UK has ever hosted, has been described as the most important climate event since the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015.

It will see the 197 signatory parties involved in the 1994 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) come together to discuss the climate crisis on a global scale.

The first UNFCCC COP took place from 28 March to 7 April 1995 in Berlin.

At COP26, what has and hasn’t been achieved by countries since the Paris Agreement came into effect will be addressed.

And the meeting is expected to finalise the rules of how the agreement will operate in the future.

The outcomes of the summit will help to shape the lives of billions of people across the globe for decades to come.

When was the last COP summit?

COP25 was held in Madrid in November 2019 and was the longest on record, finishing two days later than originally planned.

One of the most notable moments from the conference was youth climate activist Greta Thunberg’s speech, in which she called on the public to put pressure on politicians to behave as if the world is in an emergency.

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She said: “Our leaders are not behaving as if we are in an emergency. In an emergency you change your behaviour. If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed you don't look away because it feels uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child.

"Without that sense of urgency how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis. If the people are not fully aware of what is going on then they will not put pressure on the people in power to act.”

The meeting ended with a lot of unresolved issues - including offsetting carbon and financial aid for developing nations - but each country agreed to devise a plan to cut carbon emissions by the next meeting in Glasgow.

Yet the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said he felt "disappointed" by how little was actually achieved at COP25.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The historic Paris Agreement came into force in 2016.

It united almost 200 countries across the world in a global deal to tackle the climate crisis, with each nation agreeing to set its own emission-reduction targets which are reviewed every five years.

The accord pledged to keep global temperatures below 2.0C above pre-industrial times, and preferably to 1.5C, which scientists say could help people avoid the impacts of extreme weather and limit the likelihood of an ice-free Arctic summer.

The agreement also said rich countries are required to help poorer nations to adapt to climate change and make the switch to renewable energy sources.

In November 2020, the US left the Paris Agreement after Donald Trump said letting countries such as India and China use fossil fuels while the US was made to cut its carbon emissions was unfair.

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But President Joe Biden, who has pledged to make the fight against climate change one of his top priorities while in office, has since reversed his predecessor’s decision.

Since the agreement, the US is the only nation to have withdrawn at any point.

The country’s engagement is viewed as crucial to the success of COP26 in Glasgow.

How can I volunteer at COP26?

Glasgow City Council has opened applications for volunteers for COP26.

“As a COP26 Volunteer, you will play your role representing Glasgow and the UK to delegates from around the world. You will provide key information on the conference and conference venues, advice on how to move around the city and promote the best of what Glasgow has to offer,” the summit’s website states.

“COP26 Volunteers will provide Glasgow’s world-famous warm welcome to ensure that delegates and visitors have the best possible experience, playing a crucial role in the success of an important global event.”

There are a number of different volunteer opportunities, ranging from Accommodation Hub Member to Green Zone Team Member.

You can apply here, and the closing date for applications is 31 March 2021.

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