The event encompasses negotiations between 196 countries regarding their fossil fuel emissions and issues surrounding climate change across the globe.
Jessica O’Reilly, associate professor of International Studies at the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, said at the top of the agenda is policy negotiations, especially the use of the Paris Agreement. Article 6, which focuses on countries’ nationally determined contributions towards emission reduction, is still being negotiated even though the Paris Agreement has been implemented since 2020. There are disagreements about carbon markets still being worked through, she said.
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O’Reilly said other issues of importance include greenhouse gas emissions beyond carbon dioxide, reforestation, climate justice and equity. She said this conference is an opportunity for people of every background to advocate to address climate change.
“It’s a really important opportunity for scholars, activists, people in the corporate world, banks and investors, artists, to get together and share information,” O’Reilly said. “There’s the policy side which is really important and there’s this whole other dimension to it that has a lot of activity around climate change.”
The most prominent negotiations are happening between developed and developing countries, she said.
“This is not an even playing field that countries are negotiating in,” O’Reilly said. “There are people and places that are experiencing devastating climate effects now, and there are those who have caused more of it, who are expecting to experience climate change later on.”
At the conference and at IU, students are pushing for better action, such as more contributions in the fight against climate change from the government, she said. These students are really leading the movement in a lot of ways, such as through their advocacy, she said.
“I continue to see youth activists, including some of our IU students, really pushing stronger climate action,” O’Reilly said. “They’re really leading the charge while governments are sort of following them. I think everyone is aware of that.”
Mary Sluder, IU student delegate and part-time associate instructor of biology, is attending COP26 as an IU graduate student. She attends meetings with other researchers called Research for Independent Non-Governmental Organizations.
“We meet with other researchers that are independent, either with universities or other non-governmental organizations, and collaborate, go to different events and share what we’ve learned,” Sluder said.
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Sluder’s research topic of choice is water, she said. She said she spends a lot of time at the water pavilion, a space for meetings and conversations about the importance of water in relation to climate change, at the conference. She said she has learned a lot about her chosen issue through COP26, such as how water and climate are related and how water is interconnected with the adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
Lingxi Chenyang, Environmental Resilience Institute legal fellow at IU, said there are two main functions of COP26. The first is to get all the countries and parties in attendance to commit to reduce their carbon emissions. The second is to convince developed countries to finance climate mitigation and adaptation for developing countries, she said.
“Climate change has these global impacts,” Chenyang said. “A lot of developing countries who are not responsible, or less responsible for climate change, have to suffer those consequences.”
She said she hopes to see every country commit to ambitious targets, and reduce carbon emissions. She said she would recommend for every person to stay updated on COP26 proceedings.
“This is the most important international meeting on climate change,” Chenyang said. “And it’s been happening since 1992. What the U.S. does, as a leader in the conference, will have a big impact on how our world changes over the next few decades, and even over the next century.”