The summit brings officials from almost 200 countries to Glasgow, aiming to haggle over the best measures to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C.

COP26 will be the biggest climate conference since the 2015 Paris summit and is seen as crucial in setting worldwide emission targets to slow global warming. (AFP)

The UN climate summit in Glasgow has opened with appeals for action and prayers, kicking off two weeks of intense diplomatic negotiations by almost 200 countries on how to tackle the common challenge of intensifying global warming.

The summit, known as COP26, opened on Sunday and is scheduled to run to November 13.

Negotiators will push nations to ratchet up their efforts to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) this century compared with pre-industrial times.

The summit remains “our last, best hope to keep 1.5 in reach,” said Alok Sharma, the British government minister chairing the Glasgow talks.

Following the opening gavel on Sunday, leaders from around the world will gather in Scotland’s biggest city on Monday to lay out their countries’ efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the effects of climate change.

What is the COP?

COP is short for Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The 26th conference was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 25,000 delegates are registered for the Glasgow event.

First held in 1995, it also serves as the meeting of parties to the 1992 Kyoto Protocol that first committed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and those that signed on to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

However, the world has already warmed by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius and current projections based on planned emissions cuts over the next decade are for it to hit 2.7 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

The amount of energy unleashed by such planetary warming would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and greatly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather, experts warn.

World leaders attending

More than 100 world leaders will attend the start of the summit Monday and Tuesday, known as the high-level segment, including US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Germany’s Angela Merkel, who presided over the first COP, will make one of her last international trips as chancellor, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to attend in person.

“We need all of the G20 to come forward,” said Sharma. “The G20 represents 80 percent of global emissions and that’s why every country matters, but the G20 matters particularly.”

At the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis appealed to the world’s people to pray that world leaders’ realise the suffering of the Earth and the poor as the climate warms.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was mobbed like a rock star by fans and journalists on Saturday as she arrived in Glasgow by train.

Among the top issues at COP26 is the question of how poor countries will afford the expense of ditching cheap fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy while adapting to the inevitable effects of global warming already “baked into” the atmosphere.

There is a consensus that rich nations, whose greenhouse gas emissions are largely responsible for climate change, have to pay up. The question is how much.

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