A major United Nations climate change summit is coming to Glasgow next year, after the UK and Italy have been successful in their joint bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties.
Known as COP26, the 2020 summit has been described as the most important gathering of world leaders against climate change since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015.
After initially competing with each other, the UK and Italy instead decided to team up — and the two countries have chosen Glasgow as the host city.
“As one of the UK’s most sustainable cities, with a record for hosting high-profile international events, Glasgow is the right choice to showcase the UK’s commitment to the environment,” said Claire Perry, former environment minister and the UK nominated president for COP26.
“In 2020, world leaders will come together to discuss how to protect our planet and set the direction for the years to come,” she added.
The 2-week summit will be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted, according to the Cabinet Office — with up to 36,000 delegates likely to attend, including 200 world leaders.
The summit itself will be hosted at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC) towards the end of 2020. According to the proposal, the UK will host the main conference while Italy would host the preliminary meetings. Smaller events will also likely be held around the rest of Britain too.
Lang Banks, director at WWF Scotland, said that the plans were “very exciting” when Glasgow was initially announced as the proposed host for COP26 last month.
“This will be a vital milestone in the global response to the growing climate crisis,” Banks added. “The fossil fuel era began in Scotland and in 2020 the global community must come to Glasgow and say that this will be the last fossil fuel generation and that we are ready to take on the climate and nature emergencies we face.”
But he said that the Scottish and the UK governments must be ready to “show that we have our own houses in order and have strong climate emergency plans in place” before the event.
Dr. Alison Doig, who’s head of policy at Christian Aid and was born in Glasgow, described hosting the summit as a “huge responsibility, as we are already seeing the very real impacts of the climate crisis.”
“With record temperatures in the UK and across Europe recently, devastating floods in Mozambique and India, and weather extremes causing havoc in other parts of the world, it will be up to the UK’s diplomatic skills and influence to ensure the Glasgow summit delivers a positive and urgent outcome for the planet,” she said.
She added that the two priorities for the summit must be for countries to commit to working together to achieve rapid emissions reductions; and to ensure that vulnerable countries and people already suffering from the effects of climate change are given the financial support needed to adapt and prosper.
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon said that by the summit, all countries must have submitted new national pledges for taking climate action.
He said this would make the summit the “first real test of resolve” under the Paris Agreement, that was signed in 2015 and aims to get countries’ commitments in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.
Scotland is leading the way for the UK in tackling its contribution to climate change.
Britain became the first major economy in the world to legislate for a zero carbon emissions target in June, by committing to be entirely “net zero” by 2050 — but Scotland has gone one better, announcing an ambition earlier in June to hit the net zero target by 2045.
Now, Glasgow and Edinburgh are going head-to-head to be the first city in the UK to be carbon neutral. While Glasgow is aiming to hit zero emissions “well before” the national 2045 target, Edinburgh has pledged to get to zero emissions by 2030.
According to WWF Scotland, the country is also already generating 75% of its electricity needs from renewables and is aiming to end the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2032 — again ahead of the UK-wide target of 2040.