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UC Professor: COP26 will shape our global future

Kalyx Jorgensen

1 November 2021: The UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) kicked off in Glasgow overnight, watched closely by the world – and University of Canberra Professor Barbara Norman says that this summit will set the trajectory for a global future.

Professor Norman explained that this decade needs to be one of action, and the agreements set at COP26 will be crucial for what the future looks like.

“Critical action needs to be taken now – 2030 is so important, we will not achieve our 2050 targets if we don’t start this decade,” she said.

“This is a critical issue, you can’t start work in 2049 to achieve these goals. The longer we leave it the harder it gets – it is imperative to start now”.

COP26 has been held up as one of our last chances to set targets and agreements for the coming decade, to avoid some of the catastrophic events and mitigate the risks climate change poses. Delaying action won’t allow us to meet the current 2050 goals.

But what exactly is COP26 and why is it relevant to every individual on the planet?

COP refers to ‘Conference of the Parties’ and this year marks the 26th annual global climate summit.  This event brings nation leaders together to advance action on climate change and global cooperation.

Over the next two weeks, global leaders (and their teams) will meet in Glasgow to negotiate an agreement and discuss four key items: NetZero by 2050, adaptation planning, financing climate change action, and cooperation.

Earlier agreements just aren’t enough, in the face of the current challenges the world faces.

How to limit warming to as low as possible will be crucial, with even just one degree difference in rising temperatures the decider of the level of destruction we would expect to see and how liveable areas of the planet will be.

“What science is saying is that with the current commitments, we are on track for a 2.7°C increase in temperature, and we are trying for 1.5°C,” Professor Norman said.

“The climate events in the last five years – bushfires, floods, storms – are concerning.  Even a doubling of those events might start to create an unliveable future for vulnerable communities.”

Discussion around adaptation and resilience to climate change is also starting to take centre stage as we continue to see the impacts of climate change increase.

This is something Professor Norman is passionate about, as she chairs the Climate Change Adaptation Resilience Research Network (CCARRN) which brings together various experts at the University to help contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for people and the planet.

Adaptation plans and funding, and embedding climate considerations into decision-making, will be integral as the world continues to navigate a changing climate.

“We need to be developing a national adaptation strategy – the impacts and risks are already locked in and we need money on the table,” Professor Norman said.

“Embedding climate wise provisions into everyday decision making and legislating those will make a significant difference over time.”

Professor Norman and the CCARRN will be closely watching the events in Glasgow, and even hosting their own event – bringing together local leaders across Canberra and surrounds to discuss adapting to a changing climate across the region.

A Local Conversation is a collaboration with the Canberra Region Joint Organisation and Canberra Urban and Regional Futures (CURF) and is open to all.

Professor Norman, who usually attends the climate summit in person will also be virtually taking part in a side event at COP26, organised by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, an international collaboration lead by Columbia University which highlights leading examples of universities working with cities on climate action.

This, along with hundreds of other COP26 events, will be available via livestream on the COP26 YouTube channel.

A Local Conversation is on Wednesday 3 November, 10am–11.30am. Go to the registration page to sign up for this free event.