Social Responsibility and Sustainability

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

April 2020 update: Please note the COP26 conference has been postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19. 

What is COP26?

The Conference of Parties, known as COP, is the decision-making body responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, whose objective is to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

COPs happen annually and bring together 197 nations and territories – called Parties – that have signed on to the Framework Convention.

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 2020

The UK Government will host COP 26, which takes places in Glasgow from 9 – 19 November 2020. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the formal events in the 'blue zone' where 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 natioanl 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. 2020 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 able to conclude – setting out the rules for a carbon market between countries

3. From 2020 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

Find out more about the UN’s COP 26