What is COP 26?

Find out what COP 26 is and why it’s important, both globally and locally.

COP 25 opening ceremony
The official opening ceremony of the high-level segment of the 25th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP 25. (10 December 2019), by UN Climate Change/James Dowson

What is COP26?

COP 26” is a major United Nations climate change summit taking place in Glasgow from 31 October -12 November 2021 under the presidency of the UK Government. Named the “26th session of the Conference of the Parties” – shortened to COP 26  – the conference is an important place for countries to come together to discuss how climate change will be tackled and to agree on global and national targets.

National and local impact

COPs help governments to set their own climate change targets, and thus the climate change targets of different sectors, localities, and organisations.

The 'climate COPs' have met annually since 1995. In 2015, the 21st Session of the COP (COP 21) was historic in its outcome in that during it the first international climate agreement was made, named the Paris Agreement after its host city.

The central aim of the Paris Agreement is to encourage countries to take action to keep global temperature rise in this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius, thus limiting further climate change.

COP 26 - Glasgow 2021

The UK Government will host COP 26, which will take place in Glasgow from 31 October  - 12 November 2021. This is the first time the UK hosts the conference, which was originally scheduled for November 2021 but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 30,000 delegates are expected to contribute to formal events in the 'blue zone' where climate experts, campaigners, policy makers and world leaders debate how to make global progress on climate change.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend side events in the 'green zone', a citizen meeting space where NGOs, organisations and national representatives engage with each other and the general public on aspects of environmental awareness, social equality and reflections on proceedings at the COP.

Why is COP 26 important?

COP 26 is important because:

1. 2021 is the year in which all countries are asked to submit their new long-term goals; so ambition to address the global climate emergency will be high on the agenda

2. It will have to finish the work that COP 25 was unable to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries

3. From 2021 onwards, the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement will be the key driver of international climate action

It is also an important opportunity for the UK – and Scotland in particular – to demonstrate what it is doing to reduce climate change and shift towards a lower-carbon, more inclusive society.

Find out more

Read the School of Geoscience's summary of why COP26 is important 

Visit the UK's COP26 website