The 2015 Paris Agreement commits its signatories – virtually all of the world's governments – to try to keep global temperature rises above pre-industrial levels to significantly below 2 degrees celsius, ideally 1.5 degrees celsius, with wealthier nations taking the lead.
In the lead up to COP26, a range of countries are announcing their intention to reach net zero emissions. These now include China as well as the UK and other European nations. US president Joe Biden is expected to join them, increasing hopes of a successful outcome at COP26. Experts warn that the UK, as host of COP26, will be under particular pressure to credibly demonstrate it could meet its net zero target.
A core principle of the UN framework is the transfer of money from richer to less wealthy nations, in recognition of the large injustices at the heart of the climate problem. Stopping the worst outcomes will cost a lot of money, however much of it will also lead to benefits. Wealthier nations have also disproportionately caused a problem that will fall hardest on those least responsible and more vulnerable.
Rich nations had pledged to deliver $100 billion a year by 2020 from both public and private sources but are currently falling short and there is some ambiguity over what counts as legitimate financial support.
COP26 is not the only major environmental summit on the horizon. In May 2021 world governments are due to meet in China for a crucial meeting convened by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
It aims to reach ambitious new agreements on the protection and restoration of biodiversity. This meeting is as critical for nature as COP26 is for the climate. Global biodiversity loss has not slowed since the signing of the first biodiversity plan in 2010, with the world having missed all of its twenty targets.