70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

What is COP26 and why should we care?

By: Judy Mann

We look forward to COP 26 as, with decisive action and strong commitment from the world’s leaders, we can ensure that planet earth remains habitable for human beings and the rich diversity of other life forms on which we all depend.

It is almost impossible to listen to the news at present and not hear about COP 26.  Starting on the 31 October in Glasgow in the United Kingdom this enormous climate summit will, for better or for worse, determine the future of our planet.

What is COP?

COP stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’ which is the decision-making body responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The aim of this convention is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent the worst impacts of climate change”.

The Climate Change COPs happen each year, bringing together the 197 nations and territories – called Parties – that are signatories to the Framework Convention.

What is the Climate Change story now?

For many years climate change was a rather abstract concept – something that was coming, in the future – maybe. Things have changed as the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report made chillingly clear. As the burning of fossil fuels pumps carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a ‘blanket’ around the Earth is created, trapping heat and causing the earth’s temperature to rise. This little animation will help you to understand this process. So far the earth’s temperature has risen by about 1.1 oC.  It may sound like a very small increase – but we all know that a few degrees increase in temperature can kill a human. So too will a small increase in the temperature of the earth destroy our planet’s ability to sustain life. 

These are the facts:

  • the climate is changing rapidly
  • people are causing the rapid change
  • unless we do something urgently life is going to become very difficult for millions of people, not to mention the other life forms that we share this planet with.

Why is COP 26 so important?

COP 26 is important because this year nations have been asked to set national targets for carbon reduction and determine who will pay.

COP26 will focus on ensuring there is enough progress on emission cuts by 2030 to keep temperature increases to below 1.5 oC, a critical tipping point. This will be very difficult as most nations depend on cheap, easy-to-access energy from fossil fuels. Ending their use will require global changes to how we create and use energy.

What about the ocean?

It’s not too late to turn the tide of destruction. An immediate reduction in CO2 emissions, a dramatic reduction in fishing effort on overexploited species, the establishment of a comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity and the strict control of nutrient and pollution inputs into the marine environment will all help our oceans to regain their capacity to sustain life – both within the water and for us, on land

How can you help?

Each of us has a role to play. Our website is filled with ideas of what each of can do to help our oceans, and ultimately ourselves.

Our messages – SAAMBR.