What is COP26, and how does it relate to museums?

In 1992, the world’s governments committed to address the rapidly growing threat of global climate change by adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Convention came into force in 1994.

Since then, governments have met annually to monitor progress, evaluate what further action is needed, and agree programmes of activity to combat climate change. The main meeting is often referred to as the ‘COP’, which means the ‘Conference of the Parties’. As the first COP was held in 1994, the next COP will be COP26, and it will be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

Although the UNFCCC, and other important agreements including the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, are signed by governments, they need involvement from all of society. The UNFCCC and Paris Agreement recognise the importance of public education, staff training, public awareness, public access to information, public participation and international co-operation in order to address climate change. Museums can support all of these activities, and their role was recognised in 2018 at COP24, when they were included in the operational plan for the Paris Agreement, called the Katowice Package.

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action, and Museums for Climate Action, were developed as the AHRC Priority Area for Heritage contribution to the UK’s time as host of COP26. The project aims to support radical climate action in and with museums before, during and after COP26.