Conferences COP26 - 2021 GCE Activities

Global Change Ecology at COP26

On Sunday, the 31st of October, governments, industries, NGOs, and other stakeholders, come together in Glasgow for the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP). Expectations for this year’s COP are high, some voices even say too high, preparing for a failure because they believe that the countries will not be able to deliver.  

Why are expectations so high?  

Since Paris, Glasgow is the first conference at which countries must present their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which should include more ambitious emission reductions. So far, only 122 countries have submitted new NDCs. And even with those fresh commitments, the emission gap to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 stays worryingly large. This means that current commitments are not enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C, as agreed upon in Paris six years ago. To date, 46 countries have not submitted any NDCs at all.  

Many deem COP26 as the very last chance to finally get on track for the big goal of reaching net-zero by 2050. An utterly important milestone to reach this goal is the achievement of a 50% emission reduction until 2030. As the year draws to a close, 2030 is only 9 years away! This is not much time for the vast and systemic changes that must happen.  

Time is running out – this is the main reason COP26 must deliver.  

The Presidency of this year’s COP has identified four main goals which have to be achieved:  

  1. This goal sets the scene: As already explained, securing net-zero by 2050 is existential to keeping global warming to 1.5°C and thus of utmost importance. 
  1. Mobilising finance: The second most important and probably hottest discussed topic at this year’s conference will be finance. In Copenhagen 2009, wealthy countries committed to providing $100 bn annually from 2020 to 2025 in order to help developing countries finance mitigation and adaptation measures. Countries have fallen short of achieving this goal in 2020. Analyses show that global climate finance flows even need to increase substantially in the coming years.  
  1. Adaptation and loss and damage are high on the agenda at this year’s conference. As mitigating climate change will not prevent extreme weather events and long-lasting changes in the earth system from happening, countries and communities need to adapt to the new normal, which will likely be an at least 1.5°C warmer world. Additionally, delegates want to find ways to better support communities, which are so severely affected that adaptation is not enough anymore. This falls under the umbrella of loss and damage, where finally meaningful improvements need to be seen. 
  1. All stakeholders, including governments, businesses and the civil society must collaborate and work on solutions together in order to let action follow the promises and tackle the challenge lying ahead. Cooperation is key and indispensable. 

Thanks to our study programme’s support, a group of Global Change Ecology students was selected to participate in this year’s COP. We want to thank our coordination, especially Stephanie Thomas, and our head of course, Carl Beierkuhnlein, for providing this incredible opportunity.  

We will try to share as much of our experiences as possible with you, by posting on our Twitter and Instagram accounts and by publishing more extensive insights here on the GCE blog.  

Feel free to reach out to us in case of any enquiries or questions.  

Week 1 attendees: Kelly Heroux, Christoffer Johansson, Theresa Landwehr, Theresia Romann, Katja Scharrer, Selina Scheer, Sandra Schira, Steffen Schwardmann, Marco Thalhofer, Yun-Yun Tsai, Hannah Weishäupl, Carolin Wicke 

Week 2 attendees: Pia Bradler, Alexis Case, Hannah Pepe, Diana Miriam Pineda Fernández, Veronika Schlosser, Éverton Souza da Silva, Eva Späte, Gabriela Vielma, Ana Letitia Vital, Elena Wiese, Manuela Zindler 

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Author: Marco Thalhofer

I am from Germany and prior to studying Global Change Ecology I did a bachelor’s in Geography at University of Augsburg. I am passionate about everything outdoors, especially skiing, cycling and mountaineering.
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