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COP26 president Alok Sharma, chair of the IPCC Dr Hoesung Lee and other officials at the procedural opening of the COP26 summit in Glasgow today. Alberto Pezzali

COP26: Climate summit described as 'last, best hope' to meet 1.5 degree goal

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin will attend a two-day world leaders summit as part of COP26.

THE COP26 PRESIDENT has said this year’s UN climate summit is the “last, best hope” of keeping a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees within reach.

The annual conference, which runs until 12 November, opened today in Glasgow.

In his opening address, COP26 president Alok Sharma called on countries to work together to avoid the most devastating impacts of global warming.

He said it will be a “tough ask” to reach the 1.5 degree goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Sharma said the impacts of climate change were already being felt across the world in the form of “floods, cyclones, wildfires, record temperatures”.

In 2015, countries agreed on a goal to limit a global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, preferably keeping the increase to 1.5 degrees. 

Up to 30,000 government officials, climate experts and other delegates are due to arrive in Glasgow from today to take part in talks and debates during the conference.

Activists will also be taking to the streets during the proceedings. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg is in the Scottish city to take part in climate protests. 

cop26-glasgow A delegate at the COP26 summit in Glasgow today. PA PA

Ireland’s role

The Taoiseach will attend the world leaders summit taking place tomorrow and Tuesday. 

Micheál Martin will take part in a World Leader’s Summit Action and Solidarity round table event tomorrow hosted by British prime minister Boris Johnson.

On Tuesday afternoon, Martin will deliver Ireland’s national statement at the summit. World leaders issue statements to set out how their countries will contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

The Taoiseach has said he hopes there will be a “real coming together for global action” at COP26. 

“Climate change is already a reality in all parts of the world. If we are to leave a habitable planet to future generations we must act now,” Martin said in a statement. 

The challenge is big, but I have faith in the capacity of humans to work together to overcome it. Science is leading the way. Leaders must put the right policies in place, as we are doing in Ireland.

He added that he hopes this summit will see a “real step forward in climate finance, supporting the most vulnerable countries”. 

Since 2009, developed countries have pledged to deliver a $100 billion a year climate fund to help developing nations. This has not yet materialised and it is among the key issues to be discussed at COP26. 

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed the temperature has already risen by 1.1 degrees. 

At 1.5 degrees of warming, there would be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2 degrees, heat extremes would more often reach “critical tolerance threshold for agriculture and health”, the IPCC report said.

Last week, a UN report said even the latest, most ambitious carbon cutting commitments would still lead to a “catastrophic” warming rise of 2.7 degrees.

Countries are being asked to increase their climate ambitions and show how they will follow through with their goals at the conference.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said today that nations must turn away from business as usual or accept that “we are investing in our own extinction”.

Additional reporting by AFP

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