What to expect from COP26: A conversation from TED Countdown Summit

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The closing session of the TED Countdown Summit in Edinburgh on Friday, October 15, 2021 started with a discussion about the upcoming United Nations climate conference, COP26, which will take place in Glasgow from October 31-November 12, 2021. The discussion — featuring Patricia Espinosa, Laurence Tubiana and Gonzalo Muñoz — touched on how the process works and what we can expect from this crucial global gathering, whose ambition was described in an earlier TED Talk by Alok Sharma, its president, as our last chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The conversation, which is presented here in its entirety, featured three key protagonists of global climate negotiations present and past:

Patricia Espinosa is the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, which is the UN entity tasked with leading the global response to the threat of climate change. It’s also the organizer of the COP gathering, together with the host governments (this year, the UK in partnership with Italy). COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” to the Framework Convention.

Laurence Tubiana is the CEO of the European Climate Foundation. She was France’s climate change ambassador and one of the architects of the Paris Agreement.

Gonzalo Muñoz, who led the discussion, is the UN’s High Level Climate Action Champion for COP25, which took place last year.

Reflecting on the challenges of previous COP conferences, Espinosa describes the importance of the human aspects of these landmark meetings and how to best build trust. Tubiana shares the story of bringing the draft of the Paris Agreement to the negotiating group comprised of oil-producing countries and the world’s biggest emitters on the very last day of COP21 in 2015 in Paris — and what happened next. The three speakers see both excitement and concern emerging ahead of COP26. As Tubiana says, “We have to bet that we can win.”