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  • Mythri Raveendranathan

The Glasgow Climate Summit: What is it and why is it so crucial for Earth's future?

In recent weeks, the news cycle has been inundated with updates on the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference otherwise known as COP26 that will be hosted in Glasgow this November. Reports of who will be attending, and what will be discussed have been analysed in painstaking detail, in order to try to predict the impact this will have for Earth’s future.


But why is the summit so crucial for climate change? Why should we care?


What is it?


The upcoming climate summit in Glasgow will be the 26th UN Climate Change Conference. The conferences began in 1995 and have been held every year since (with the exception of 2020, due to the pandemic). They are a formal meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change parties to discuss responses to climate change, and have also been used to negotiate and monitor the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement in the past.


The Glasgow climate summit is especially significant as it is the first time since COP21 that the parties meeting are expected to commit to ‘enhanced ambition’ – and step up their commitment to combat climate change.


Who will be in attendance?


The following countries have committed their attendance to the summit so far: US, UK, Australia, India, Israel, Turkey, France, Canada, Italy, Colombia, Sweden, Switzerland, Nigeria, Ghana and Argentina. Significantly, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have elected not to attend the conference due to COVID-19 concerns, which could impact the course of the summit. In particular, China’s role as the largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, coupled with their absence from the conference could mean that any deal that is struck may be less effective.


What should we be aware of?


Well firstly, COP26 is without a doubt not shy of criticism. The summits have been derided before for being a posturing and tokenistic exercise, where leaders talk but do not take any decisive action. Even more worryingly, in the past two days, reports have emerged in which coal and oil-producing countries have attempted to tamper with the next UN climate report and are trying to omit recommendations to stop relying on fossil fuels. While the lobbying will not impact the report itself (and is usually recommended), it paints a worrying picture: how much can we trust our world leaders to make the best decisions for Earth’s future if they prioritise short-term economic gain instead?


Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the world’s eyes will be on Glasgow in that crucial first week of November as we continue to wait for the decisions of world leaders that will heavily determine our Earth’s future.


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