After yet another year of record-breaking temperatures, flash floods, and wildfires, climate activists anxiously await COP26, the UN’s 26th conference on climate change, where world leaders once again reveal their plans to tackle the climate crisis.

In Paris 2015, history was made. Leaders from all over the world agreed to limit global temperature rise to below two degrees. This was a landmark moment in the climate change fight and filled many with hope for the future. But, over the last six years, global temperatures have continued to rise. COP26 provides the next crucial opportunity for plans to be put in place before it is too late.

This year, the agenda for COP26 will cover the four key goals and how we can deliver them. The four goals are:

1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees of warming within reach

The world’s climate is already warming. We have caused around 1 degree of heating above pre-industrial levels already, and 1.5°C is the upper limit before some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change take place. Keeping this goal within reach is the first objective of COP26.

To achieve this, countries must remove the same amount of carbon they produce by the middle of the century, this includes halving all emissions by 2030. This is an ambitious target for just nine years away, but it is possible, with a robust plan and immediate action.

Child walking on a flooded road.
Image credit: Stacy Kranitz / Climate Visuals Countdown

Isle de Jean Charles is disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico. The gravel that holds the 3-mile road leading to the island has slowly eroded into the saltwater.

countries must remove the same amount of carbon they produce by the middle of the century, this includes halving all emissions by 2030

To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels, especially coal, and instead encourage investment in renewables to power our homes, businesses, and vehicles. Another key focus should be on reforesting. Vegetation is essential for carbon reduction to lower global emissions and keep 1.5°C degrees of warming within reach, yet deforestation is still happening at an alarming rate around the world.

2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions. At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences and put warming systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods, and lives.

Take Japan, for example, located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, it is a country extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. To prepare for these, they have developed high-tech monitoring programmes to enable an early warning system when a disaster is likely, allowing citizens to evacuate and protect their livelihoods. We must create systems like this on a global scale to protect people and ecosystems around the world from the effects of climate change.

Image credit: Joan Sullivan / Climate Visuals Countdown

Two O&M wind technicians secure themselves with security harnesses to the top of a wind turbine during annual inspection of the Roosevelt wind farm in eastern New Mexico.
3. Mobilise finance

To achieve the first two goals, developed countries must deliver on their promise to raise at least $100 billion in climate finance per year to aid developing countries. International financial institutions must play their part and work towards unleashing the trillions stored in the private and public sectors. Without the financial support for adaptation, many countries will struggle to achieve net-zero, as clean, green technology is a potentially expensive, but essential investment to secure a future below 1.5 or even two degrees warming. The alternative, dealing with the effects of warming above those levels, would be far more costly.

4. Work together to deliver

We can only rise to the challenges of climate change by working together. At COP26 we must finalise the Paris Rulebook and deliver on the promises already made. The development of the Covid-19 vaccine this year has proven that when the world works together for a unanimous end goal, the funds can be raised, technologies created and results achieved. We have to turn our ambitions into action by accelerating collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society to deliver our climate goals faster and secure a stable future.