What COP26 needs to achieve

Anna Aberg, Antony Froggatt and Rebecca Peters lay down markers for what would constitute a successful summit

The World Today Published 1 October 2021 3 minute READ

Commuters drowning on the subway in Zhengzhou, homes washed away by raging floods in central Europe, millions of mussels and clams cooked alive on Canadian beaches by infernal heat and Greek villages ablaze.

As climate change accelerates, extreme weather events – heatwaves, heavy rainfall and tropical storms – are increasing in intensity and frequency. The summer of 2021 has provided a bitter foretaste of what lies ahead.

Six years ago, world leaders signed the Paris Agreement, promising to limit the rise in the global average temperature to ‘well below’ 2C, preferably 1.5C. As was underscored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, those targets are still within reach – but only if unprecedented action is taken now.

The scale of the task is breathtaking. To have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5C, global emissions must halve by the end of this decade and reach ‘net zero’ by the mid-century.

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