What is COP26?
COP stands for 'Conference of the Parties' and these are UN conferences on its different conventions.
COP26 is where world leaders come together to talk about climate change and how to tackle it, as it's the COP for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This year marks the 26th COP summit - hence why it is called COP26 - taking place 1-12 November 2021 in the UK. It's held here this year because the UK were successful in their bid to host it - this means they have taken on the Presidency. Glasgow was chosen as the location, in part due to the city's commitment to sustainability. The spotlight is now on the UK to provide global leadership that raises ambition and turns promises into desperately needed action to tackle the inseparable nature and climate crises.
Here we look at what we're expecting during the summit, and the leadership needed to ensure that globally we tackle the nature and climate crises.
What do we want to see at COP26?
COP26 is our chance to tackle the climate and nature crises together. Climate change is already contributing to nature's decline, whilst the loss of wildlife and habitats leaves us ill-equipped to reduce emissions and adapt to change. Global leaders must take a stand and embed climate action and nature's recovery across their policies. Broadly, we need:
- A set of national policies from all countries to keep 1.5C within reach
This is critical to protecting the UK's natural environment from irreversible and catastrophic change.
The UK must lead the way at COP26 - and demonstrate the right approach at home. The UK Government is currently not on track to adapt to climate change, or to achieve Net Zero emissions, yet the UK has to play its fair and historic share in tackling climate change that it is responsible for, and supporting developing nations cope with the effects of climate change that they have little historic responsibility for.
Agreement that nations will invest in high quality nature-based solutions (e.g. peatland and saltmarsh creation and restoration) that are developed in partnership with local communities to help mitigate against, and adapt to, climate change on a global scale.
What could these commitments look like at home?
So, what does this mean for Wales? All policies should be contributing to restoring nature, NOT degrading it. This means better protecting what we already have, and expanding it. Welsh Government has set a target of protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030 and to achieve Net Zero by 2050. Sounds good, but protection isn’t the same as restoring. Wales needs to be Carbon Negative and Nature Positive by 2030.
Welsh Government should commit to the following:
- Restore 100% of upland peat before 2030
And introduce an immediate ban on rotational burning, to give peat the best chance of surviving in hotter, drier conditions as the climate changes.
- Use the planning system to help address the climate crisis
Introduce a new Wildbelt designation and develop a Nature Recovery Network to address the crisis whilst providing opportunities for people from all backgrounds to access wildlife-rich places in their communities.
- A legally binding State of Nature target to halt and reverse the decline of nature by 2030
Welsh Government has committed to a legally binding nature target but this must enable the recovery of nature by 2030. This target should be supported by significant new investment into nature-based solutions to help Wales adapt to our changing climate.
- Introduction of Sustainable Farming Scheme
Agricultural land covers over 70% of Wales, it is, therefore, essential for nature's recovery on land. Farmers must be incentivised to store carbon and restore nature through the new Sustainable Farming Scheme.
- Better management of our seas
30% of all Marine Protected Areas designated as Highly Protected Marine Areas, with new fishing policies and marine spatial planning contributing to protecting and enhancing blue carbon stores.