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What is the COP26? And what does it mean for us?

Everyone keeps talking about the COP26. But like… what is it, why is it important, and why should you care about what happens now that it’s all done and dusted? We’ve tried to answer some of your questions.

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably seen a little bit (or a lot) about the COP26, otherwise known as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. And sure, the acronym might not make sense to most people, but this climate conference is pretty important. 

To help keep you in the loop, we’ve scoured the internet for all of the info you need next time someone mentions the conference. It ran from 31 October – 12 November 2021 in the UK and it’s kind of a big deal, especially when it comes to the future of like… the planet.

What is the COP26?

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was held between 31 October – 12 November this year in the UK. The number 26 in the acronym stands for the 26th year of the conference. 

Basically, this is a conference providing world leaders with a chance to #letstalk about climate change for realsies.

There’s also a massive sense of urgency around this particular conference due to global warming. Oh, and it’s not just world leaders who attend. Professional negotiators, mediators, government representatives, businesses and citizens all have a say and a seat at the table.

Why was this conference so important?

Enter stage left – the Paris Agreement. Back in 2015, every country put their hands in a circle and swore to work together to limit global warming and work on reducing the impacts of climate change. 

The magic number? Leaders committed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees (but really we’re aiming for 1.5). This little number might seem insignificant, but trust us when we say it’s a big deal. 

Just like on that movie IT, every five years, world leaders agreed to get together again and update their worldly friends on how their #plan was progressing. Back in 2015, it was Malcom Turnbull who signed on the dotted line for this land that’s girt by sea, and this conference makes that special reunion. 

Basically, this is the first time that world leaders have had to make good on the promises they made back in 2015 and it’s a chance for leaders and their respective countries to show, not tell, that they really are committed to taking action on climate change. 

Also, as many experts have confirmed, now marks a crucial time in terms of the environment. As the wild weather suggests (bushfires, floods, seasonal shifts), there’s something brewing beneath the surface when it comes to what’s really going on with the climate, and a lot more is coming to light about how we, as humans, are kind of actually the cause of mass amounts of destruction. 

This particular gathering is also important because of the five year mark. World leaders, experts, and concerned citizens have had five years to get their act together, get their heads around the Paris Agreement, and figure out the how behind the why of their emissions target decrease. 

Although the Paris Agreement isn’t necessarily legally binding, world leaders can and will be held accountable for their actions, even if it’s simply in the eyes of the public who elect them. 

Also, this conference is most definitely on the world stage, and everyone is watching everyone. It’s like Big Brother, without a diary room to complain into. When Joe Biden, aka someone who is arguably the leader of the free world, is on board with making positive changes and actually committing to climate promises, wouldn’t you want to be seen as doing as he does?

Who attended?

So. Many. People! The rockstars include Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, (and Boris Johnson’s hair), Prince Charles, Justin Trudeau, Naftali Bennett, Narendra Modi, David Attenborough and Scott Morrison, as well as some other big players across the world.



One day Greta Thunberg will run the world, and we’re kind of ok with that. The climate activist labelled the conference “global north greenwash festival” (greenwashing refers to leaders talking about climate change and waving reusable bags in the air like they just don’t care, without taking any real action).

One of the best quotes from Greta’s protest through the square during the conference was – “The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with their fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere and will erase all of these crises just like that” – pretty much sums up how the changemaker feels about things. 

She was also quoted saying the conference was simply a “two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah” to “maintain business as usual” and “create loopholes to benefit themselves”. And, in so many ways, she’s right. The COP26 looks like a whole lot of talk, and not a lot of action – a meeting that should have been an email, if you will. 

What will be the true test however, is what comes out of the conference, especially for us here in Australia. The conservative government which is currently in power in Australia, hasn’t always been known for being #teamclimatechange so we’re inclined to side with Greta on this one.

Who didn’t go?

Who didn’t come to the party? Folks from Iran, South Africa, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Brazil.

Why all the controversy around Scott Morrison?

SCOMO was definitely on the fence about whether he would even attend the conference or not. Which is kind of a big deal. But… and we’re trying not to get too political here… this is the guy who stood up in parliament and basically declared his undying love for coal. So there’s no real surprise he was a little hesitant. You can check out that little ditty here.

After lots (and lots) of backlash on social media and from the king of nature, David Attenborough, who emphasised that all nations have a “moral responsibility” to put climate change policies at the forefront of the agenda (which includes the conference) and, also from the future King himself aka Prince Charles, who was initially “shocked” at rumours and SCOMO’s hesitation to attend the conference, it was eventually confirmed that SCOMO would (do his job and) attend. Perhaps he eventually ran out of excuses. I mean, it’s not like he has any issue with travel (Hawaii anyone?).

Australians as a whole are passionate about the climate and protecting our beautiful landscape, and making positive shifts and changes towards more renewable energy sources. It just kind of sucks when the man at the helm is kissing a lump of coal in parliament.

What about the Queen?

As an important member of the #squad known as the Commonwealth, the Queen is of course invited to attend the conference. Whatever your thoughts about the little old lady at the helm, she’s kind of down with the kids, and she’s all in when it comes to engaging in talks about climate, the Paris Agreement, and net zero.

In regards to the whole SCOMO controversy, Queen E was #spotted saying, “It’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do,” re: leaders who were at that time (October 15) yet to confirm whether or not they would even attend.

So what now?

Now the conference is all done and dusted, we basically play the waiting game. It will take a while to collate all of the ideas, plans, processes and promises made at the conference before they reach our shores (and ears). At the time of writing this, November 12 2021, we’re still waiting to hear how it all went. For a somewhat comical take on Australia’s involvement… you can catch that here.

Words: Laura Kebby | Photography: Zoe Lonergan

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