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What Is COP26? Here’s Everything You Should Know About the Climate Change Conference

Wondering what the COP26 climate change conference is? Here's everything you need to know, including how to get involved.

Written by
Asha Swann

If you aren't sure what the COP26 summit is, don't worry. We're here to break it down for you. There have been a few different climate change conferences over the last few years, so it's easy to get confused about what's at stake and what global leaders are fighting for. At this year's conference, the U.S. is working toward adding a new, organized climate policy onto your local ballots.

So what exactly are we voting for, and what's at stake? Take a look at our guide to the COP26 conference—plus a look at what experts are calling the most comprehensive American policy to combat global warming.

What Is COP26?

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which runs from October 31 to November 12.

It's the conference in which representatives from countries from around the world gather to work toward the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. At COP26, representatives will work together to find ways to protect ecosystems and transition toward sustainable lifestyles on a global scale.

Right now, the planet isn't on track to meet our ideal climate goals, but we still have a chance to make substantial changes. In other words, if we want to reverse climate change (something that is totally doable), we have to make a comprehensive plan as an international, interconnected community. COP26 is the summit where this can happen.

How Is the U.S. Affected?

Climate change is certainly a hot topic in Congress right now. Regardless of where your views land on the political spectrum, odds are your congressperson is either voting for or against climate policy.

The U.S. is just one of many countries at the summit working to take political action in fighting climate change. President Joe Biden has announced ways the country will support COP26's climate goals, one of which is replacing all USPS trucks with energy-efficient electric vehicles. As of November 2, Biden has also announced a plan to regulate and limit oil and gas leaks and repairs.

Additionally, the U.S. is proposing the Build Back Better Plan, which is currently described as "the largest effort to combat climate change in American history." If this bill is passed, we'll see huge milestones in fighting climate change, such as:

- Clean Energy Standards (CES)
- Clean Energy Tax Credits
- American-made clean energy tech
- Innovative advancements to our electric grids
- Hundreds of billions of dollars supporting climate-friendly initiatives

What Are the Goals of COP26?

Here's exactly what COP26 is working to achieve during this year's climate change conference.

1. Reach Global Net-Zero and Keep 1.5 Degrees Within Reach

By 2030, all countries will have to reach net-zero emissions and support projects that lower global warming temperatures. For example, countries will have to work toward decreasing deforestation and switching to electric vehicles.

Countries including Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, the U.S., and the U.K. have already signed a $19 billion pledge to reverse deforestation. Funding will go toward restoring land and supporting Indigenous communities.

2. Protect Communities and Natural Habitats

Each country must make efforts to end deforestation and build infrastructure that supports ecosystems and sustainable agricultural practices. Doing so will protect the homes and lives of both people and wildlife.

3. Mobilize Finance

Though every country has a part to play, some countries struggle to finance climate-friendly regulations. Developed countries aimed to fill that gap by gathering at least $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020 to financially support an eco-friendly world. However, the funding was not delivered as anticipated; therefore, the plan to fund climate regulations will continue throughout 2021-2025.

4. Work Together to Deliver

Each country will have a slightly different approach to meeting climate goals, but we can do our part by supporting community efforts on both a local and international scale. Overall, COP26's main goal is "to accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration."

5 Actions We Can All Take

1. Get Involved Locally

Getting involved in your neighborhood is a great way to teach your community about climate change and keep your parks clean. Hosting a local cleanup can help: It shows your local politicians that people care about and prioritize the planet. Urge your local leaders to tackle climate change. After all, they're elected with the people's best interest in mind.

2. Support Renewable Energy

One part of the Build Back Better Plan is to support localized renewable energy. A shift to clean energy technology—such as using solar energy or electric vehicles from American-made materials—will create jobs and benefit disadvantaged communities.

3. Stop the Pipelines

Currently, President Biden has discussed fighting leaks from oil drilling, which damage ecosystems and pollute our waters. However, every pipeline comes with the risk of a spill. Email your local officials to show you don't support pipelines in your community.

4. Decrease Your Carbon Footprint

You can also do your part on an individual level to decrease your carbon footprint. This means opting for plant-based foods and products and traveling sustainably. Making small changes to your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint can have a larger overall impact to combat climate change.

5. Vote Today and Always

Finally, vote! The planet is our home, so it's no secret we want it to survive. November 2 is the U.S. General Election, meaning today you have a say in our government's climate-protecting policies.

At Brightly, we often talk about voting with your dollars to better the planet, but you have a literal vote, too. Make sure you're registered to vote, and find your polling place. And remember: If the polls close while you're in line to vote, stay there! Your voting rights matter.