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COP26: Boris Johnson back in town for final days of climate change conference

Boris Johnson arrives back in Glasgow for COP26

Boris Johnson is back in Glasgow, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez finally found some Irn Bru, and accusations of greenwashing – but beyond all that, what is actually happening as we enter the last few days of COP26?

COP26, the UN climate change summit, has been taking place in Glasgow since the end of October and has seen world leaders descend on Scotland, but it is due to wrap up at the end of the week.

World leaders pose together at COP26

Delegates from all over the world are now being asked to agree on a ‘draft cover decision’ and make sure the decisions taken at COP26 actually do what they need to do – stop a climate catastrophe.

Boris Johnson is back in Glasgow

The prime minister travelled by train to Glasgow Central Station, after last week receiving criticism for leaving COP26 in a private jet.

He spent the day talking to negotiating teams about the conference’s draft cover decision, and emphasising the need for richer nations like the UK to finance the response to the climate emergency.

Mr Johnson said: “Here in Glasgow the world is closer than it has ever been to signalling the beginning of the end of anthropogenic climate change.

“It is now within reach.

“At COP26 in these final days, we just need to reach out together and grasp it.

“So my question to my fellow world leaders as we enter the last hours of COP26 is: Will you help us do that?

“Will you help us grasp the opportunity or will you stand in the way?”

He also highlighted a conversation he had with Surangel Whipps, the president of Palau, who said if big economies don’t do more they “might as well bomb his islands”.

What is the draft cover decision?

Before COP26 ends on Friday November 12, world leaders and delegates must agree on a cover decision.

This is a document which basically sums up everything that has been discussed at the conference, and details what progress needs to come from the negotiations that have taken place.

Today leaders, including Boris Johnson, were asked to examine a draft of this document and agree on its contents.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at COP26

The document says vulnerable nations must get more help to cope with the deadly impact of global warming, and says more finance is needed for them beyond the promised $100 billion a year by 2020, which will now not be delivered until at least 2022.

It adds countries need to speed up the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels, although it is likely there will be strong resistance on this from some countries.

Negotiators at COP26

And it says countries should submit a long-term strategy for how they will meet net zero by the end of next year, and says UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres should gather world leaders together in 2023 to consider how efforts to reach climate change targets by 2030 are shaping up.

Ultimately, it reiterates the importance of meeting the terms and conditions of the Paris Agreement.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change which was agreed upon at COP21 in Paris back in 2015.

This treaty says global warming needs to be limited to well below 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels.

However, scientists have warned that to meet these targets global emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030 and then to zero by the middle of the century.

Current plans for this decade leave the world well off track of these targets, with a projected 2.4 degree rise in global temperatures.

A climate activist

Other targets for climate change include reaching net zero – the UK became the world’s first major economy to commit to doing this by 2050.

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere – net zero is reached when the amount added is no more than the amount taken away.

What is Nicola Sturgeon saying?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has spent most of the last fortnight in her hometown of Glasgow at COP26, and has been meeting with world leaders and hosting discussions and presentations.

She is now urging the prime minister to stay in Glasgow for the remainder of the conference, and says the Paris Agreement “must not be watered down”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This is a moment that future generations will judge.

“Either we will be judged to have failed in the face of climate catastrophe or, alternatively, to have taken a decisive step towards sustainability for our planet.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“It must be the latter.

“In the words of a Marshall Islands minister I met yesterday, ‘for countries like mine, we don’t have many COPs left – the time to act is now’.”

COP26: Boris Johnson urges countries to ‘pull out all the stops’ to tackle climate change

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