What was COP26 and why was it necessary?

COP26 was the moment countries revisited climate pledges made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Six years ago, countries were asked to make changes to keep global warming "well below" 2C - and to try to aim for 1.5C. COP stands for "Conference of the Parties", and the one in Glasgow was the 26th annual summit. Ahead of it, 200 countries were asked for their plans to cut emissions by 2030. The goal is to keep cutting emissions until they reach net zero by mid-century.

What was in the COP26 agreement?

The agreement - although not legally binding - will set the global agenda on climate change for the next decade:

  • Emissions

    It was agreed countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) - a greenhouse gas which causes climate change. This is to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5℃ - which scientists say is required to prevent a "climate catastrophe". Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4℃.

  • Coal

    For the first time at a COP conference, there was an explicit plan to reduce use of coal - which is responsible for 40% of annual CO2 emissions.

  • Developing countries

    The agreement pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy.

  • US-China agreement

    The world's biggest CO2 emitters, the US and China, pledged to cooperate more over the next decade in areas including methane emissions and the switch to clean energy.

  • Trees

    Leaders from more than 100 countries - with about 85% of the world's forests - promised to stop deforestation by 2030. This is seen as vital, as tress absorb vast amounts of CO2.

  • Methane

    A scheme to cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030 was agreed by more than 100 countries. Methane is currently responsible for a third of human-generated warming.

  • Money

    Financial organisations controlling $130tn agreed to back "clean" technology, such as renewable energy, and direct finance away from fossil fuel-burning industries. The initiative is an attempt to involve private companies in meeting net zero targets.

How will countries be made to meet their pledges?

Most commitments made at COP will have to be self-policed. Only a few countries are making their pledges legally binding.

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