From Where We Are

UN Summit discusses action on climate change

People at USC weigh in on the potential for COP26 to bring about meaningful change.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcoming Joe Biden to the COP26 summit.

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the United Nations COP26 Climate Summit, questions arise about the significance of the annual meeting and whether it will lead to real change.


COP26 is the first time since the Paris Agreement that countries are revisiting their voluntary commitments under the accord. 195 international leaders had committed to holding rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius -- 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit -- above pre-industrial levels.

A report in August that the UN called “A CODE RED FOR HUMANITY” showed that the world is warming faster than scientists previously thought. Real, noteworthy changes are needed.

This is what Global Director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, Conyers Davis, thinks about the summit:

I think that COP is important to check in every year to sort of see where we are. Are we keeping pace, are we exceeding our goals, are we falling short? You can do that through the COP process but you know you still need to work every day to make sure that you’re trying to reduce emissions locally.

Davis also emphasizes the need to not underestimate the importance of the COP26 summit. It is a unique occasion for world leaders to come together in the fight against climate change.

USC Environmental Law professor Robin Craig agrees:

I think it’s important for the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to get together to hash through different ideas, to actually talk to representatives and leaders from countries that party nations may not interact with very often, to hear different perspectives and to try and reach compromise.

While Craig acknowledges the significance of the summit, she is pessimistic about the goals set forth.

I don’t think it will be enough, no. The cutbacks that are needed are fairly extreme at this point. All projections are that emissions are actually going to increase again this year.

COP26 started October 31 and will go until November 12. The summit’s president called it the world’s “last, best hope” for tackling climate change.

Although there is a question for if a change will result from COP26, USC Environmental Studies Major Annika Goldman believes the summit is one piece to the grander solution:

I think it’s definitely [a] step in the right direction especially because we’ve reentered the Paris Agreement and we are one of the largest contributors to the climate crisis so that in its self is going to lead to significant change especially as other leaders hold our country accountable and we can hold other countries accountable.