What is COP26 and Why is it Important?

Meaghan Weeden | October 26 2021 | 5 min read

What is COP26 and why it matters

Established by the United Nations in 1995, COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Parties are the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — a 1994 treaty with 197 Parties (196 countries and the EU). This year's conference, called COP26, will be the 26th COP and will be hosted by the UK. It will take place in Glasgow from October 31-November 12th and will welcome up to 25,000 attendees ranging from world leaders to protesters, businesses and nonprofits like One Tree Planted. 

COP26 is important because it will bring 200 countries together to accelerate action on the goals agreed to at the Paris Agreement and the UNFCC. To this end, every country in attendance will be asked to share their updated emission reduction plans as agreed to in the Paris Agreement. Developing countries will require developed countries and the private sector to mobilize funding for climate justice and strategic investment in areas that are most affected by climate change.

And everyone will need to come together to accelerate concrete action around the globe to tackle the crisis head on. If that sounds like a tall order, it is — but anything short of these goals will likely not be sufficient. After all, this next decade is, literally, crunch time for addressing climate change. 

Wondering if high level commitments made by dignitaries in Glasgow will directly affect your daily life? That would be a big yes. Depending on what they agree to, it could change everything from how we heat our homes and fuel (or charge) our vehicles to what infrastructure investments are made and more.

forest sunrise

Let's back up for a second: why do we need to limit our temperature rise to 1.5 degrees in the first place?

If you've been paying attention to climate scientists (and we hope you have), you've surely heard about global warming and the 1.5C figure thrown around a lot. Here's why: at 2 degrees of global warming, projections show that there would be widespread — and in many places, catastrophic — impacts on people and nature. At 1.5°C, the impacts would still be serious, but less severe. There would be lower risks of food and water shortages, lower risks to economic growth and fewer species at risk of extinction. Threats to human health from air pollution, disease, malnutrition and extreme heat would also be reduced.

That's why every fraction of a degree of warming matters, and why doing everything we can to reduce climate change and keep warming to 1.5C is so important.

What are the goals of cOP 26?

fog rising forest trees

1. SECURE GLOBAL NET ZERO BY MID-CENTURY AND KEEP 1.5 DEGREES WITHIN REACH

While a great start, the targets set by the Paris Agreement would still result in warming above 3 degrees by 2100. To prevent this, each country is expected to up the ante with updated emissions reductions targets (NDCs) every 5 years that reflect their highest possible impact. To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to accelerate everything from phasing out coal to investing in renewable energy technologies, conserving existing forests and transitioning from gas to electric vehicles.

As climate leaders recognize, forests play a vital role in removing carbon from the atmosphere and protecting them is crucial to meeting our climate goals. And right now, they're still being lost at a staggering rate. To address this, countries are being encouraged to work together to reform global trade and industrial agriculture so that sustainable production is rewarded and unsustainable practices are directly discouraged.

sunderbans india mangrove reforestation

2. ADAPT TO PROTECT COMMUNITIES AND NATURAL HABITATS

Our climate is already changing and will continue to do so regardless of how much we reduce our emissions today. And sadly, those that have done the least to cause climate change are the ones who most acutely feel its effects.

At COP26, world leaders will need need to work together to support the countries most affected by climate change as they work to protect and restore ecosystems, build defenses, establish warning systems and increase the resilience of agriculture and infrastructure.

Bolstering "green infrastructure" by conserving and restoring forests and other natural habitats is an important part of building climate change resilience across the globe. From coastal mangroves to urban oaks, healthy trees literally shield communities from extreme heat and weather events, support the healthy ecosystems that billions depend on for their livelihoods, and more.

urban reforestation new york city

3. MOBILIZE FINANCE

To achieve the first two goals, developed countries must deliver on their 2009 promise to raise at least $100 billion in climate finance per year. As climate change ramps up, it's increasing impacts on peoples lives stretches governmental budgets across the globe — especially in the developing countries that are hit the hardest.

To meet the moment and ramp up to the necessary scale and speed of change will require funds from both the public and private sectors. Public finance will be needed for the development of green, climate-resilient infrastructure. And private finance will need to be mobilized to fund green technology and innovation — and to help transform billions of public dollars into trillions of total climate investment. If that seems like a lot, consider this: to address the massive scale of the global climate crisis requires a similarly massive scale of investment and resources. The ROI? Protecting human societies, wildlife and ecosystems from catastrophic climate change.

ghana community reforestation

4. WORK TOGETHER TO DELIVER

Climate change is a global threat, and no one country can or should be expected to bear the brunt of it — or solve it alone. At COP26, attending countries will  need to finalize the Paris Rulebook (the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement) and accelerate climate action across the globe. On the ground, this will require collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society — but to make this happen, collaboration will need to be assured at the top, too. The UN negotiations are consensus-based, and reaching agreement will depend on leaving no issue behind and making sure everyone’s voice is heard. 

This problem is huge and scary, but we firmly believe that if we all come together, there's nothing that we cannot accomplish. One Tree Planted is prepared to continue our work connecting funding from businesses that care with the government, nonprofit and volunteer organizations that are planting trees on the frontlines of climate change across the globe.

rwanda nursery reforestation

One tree planted at cOP26

We're excited to share that some of our team, including our CEO and Founder, will be attending COP26, along with our COO and several members of our projects team, some of whom will be sharing behind the scenes photo and video updates via our social media accounts throughout the event. One of our Forestry Experts and Brazil Project Manager, Alaine Ball, will also be part of a Salesforce panel on November 6th at 10am BST. The panel will be focused on advancing tree equity, global urban reforestation, and the importance of ocean ecosystems like mangroves. 

In addition to our participation in the Salesforce panel, stay tuned for some exciting developments from AFR100 on Tuesday, November 2 at 9am EST, which we are proud to be a part of in partnership with the World Resources Institute. 

What is AFR100?
AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030. It aims to accelerate restoration to enhance food security, increase climate change resilience and mitigation, and combat rural poverty.

AFR100 is a partnership of 31 African governments and numerous technical and financial partners. Stakeholder engagement is a key principle of AFR100. Engaging all relevant stakeholders in the assessment of restoration opportunities and identification, testing and active upscaling of promising solutions is considered key for successful restoration. Among many targets the initiative contributes to domestic commitments, the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to restore 150 million hectares of land around the world by 2020, the New York Declaration on Forests that extends the Bonn Challenge to 350 million hectares by 2030 and the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative (ARLI), an initiative to promote integrated landscape management.

Feeling excited about global climate action ahead of COP26? Planting trees is one of the simplest climate actions you can take — so plant a tree to make a difference today!

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

As the need for reforestation is global and ever-changing, we feature where trees are most needed now. Today, we're raising funds to jumpstart forest fire recovery in British Columbia. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Restore landscapes damaged by a historic season of wildfires
  • Create habitat for iconic biodiversity like the moose and grizzly bear
  • Support old-growth management areas to maintain complex ecosystems
  • This reforestation initiative is helping to restore the landscape in British Columbia after the Hanceville fire burned over 590,000 acres in 2017 and natural regeneration has not occurred. The fire has impacted the forest, soils, riparian ecosystems, wildlife, and water quality. Local indigenous communities have seen their ability to hunt and gather food drastically altered. But your support will go a long way! The goal of planting trees here is to not only re-establish a healthy forest, but also to plant species that will be resilient in the face of climate change. Thank you so much for your support of healthy forests! 🌲
  • Planting trees will catalyze the process of returning the area to a forested state. Newly planted trees will begin the process of sequestering atmospheric carbon, and over time improve the hydrological benefits of the forest. The ecosystems that have been greatly simplified by extreme fire conditions will once again become complex ecosystems, This project will also create habitat for many local wildlife species including mule deer, moose, black and grizzly bear, wolves, sandhill cranes, various raptors, songbirds, and small mammals.
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We'll also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • B.C.'s rich forest diversity includes more than 40 different species of native trees, with some of Canada’s most interesting and valuable tree species. In this project, we made efforts to maximize species diversity, including the following species: Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, hybrid spruce, ponderosa pine, trembling aspen.

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