THE world has been issued the warnings. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said this is a make-or-break year for the COP climate conference.

It would be nice to think that, in years to come, in the decades after this COP26, the words “Glasgow Agreement” will be synonymous with something good, a turning point in international cooperation. That people, when they think of Glasgow will think that was where we came together in our global fight to achieve net zero; that was when the world finally saw good on the Paris Agreement and ratcheted up our efforts. Glasgow was the breakthrough.

But there have been plenty of signs in the run-up to the conference to suggest this is not going to be an easy battle. We need to be awake to what it might mean for COP26 to fail and how that might be fought.

Among the causes for concern is the global state of commitment as we go into the conference. By now, for instance, we would have expected more countries to have updated what are called their Nationally Determined Contributions – or NDCs – targets for national emissions.

But a report by the UN last month showed many countries had not yet updated these and that current global plans would put us on course for the planet to warm to 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

That’s particularly terrifying given the the IPCC’s recent “code red for humanity” report, which stated that the world had already warmed by 1.2C, and the fact that in 2019, the UN said the world needed to reduce emissions by 7 percent every year of the 2020s, but that, following a pandemic year in which that drop did happen, the International Energy Agency has predicted it will rise by 5 percent over 2021.

Of course, there’s still three more weeks before COP26, and updated NDCs are still coming in. We still await, for instance, targets from India, the world’s third largest emitter, which has yet to announce a net zero target year. Last week, a statement was made by Quad countries – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – of their intention to update before COP26.

China, meanwhile, though it updated its targets last year, has yet to shift its net zero from 2060 to 2050 and we still don’t know if President Xi Jinping will attend COP26. Though, on the plus side, China has now announced its commitment to endfunding for foreign coal-powered plants.

The other outstanding issue is climate transition support from richer nations to poorer nations. At the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, $100 billion of such finance was promised to developing countries by 2020. This was not met, though it has been encouraging that recently Joe Biden has committed to $11.4bn climate finance, globally. A big hope is that this conference will see Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy and the UK committing to fulfill their shares. But it still feels like we’re a long way from grappling with what it will mean to finance this shift, or how much funding it will take.

This climate finance issue is just one illustration of why COP and global cooperation are so vital. One of the big challenges still ahead of us is the decarbonisation of what some call the Global South – countries still reliant on coal such as India, South Africa and South East Asia. Richer nations will need to finance some of that. And it’s not just the financing of decarbonisation that is needed, but also of adaptation and the tackling of loss and damage. Failure on these points could be deemed a failure of the conference.

The figures involved in this transition can seem unreal and it's not an easy thing to talk about in the middle of a pandemic, when trillions have been added to global debt, or when, for instance, in the UK, we are mid energy crisis. But we need to do it for ourselves, our own futures, as much as those we would be financing.

We are undoubtedly still in a moment of possibility, of hope. A recent study published in Nature Climate Change expressed measured optimism at the fact that “national net zero emission targets could, if fully implemented, reduce best estimates of projected global average temperature increase to 2.0-2.4C by 2100, bringing the Paris Agreement temperature goal within reach”. This isn't, of course, 1.5C, but it is a shift in that direction.

We need more than that. We need those new and stronger commitments – and honest ones. The world needs to take what we have learned from the recent pandemic – our global mistakes as much as our successes – and apply it to the global effort required here. That’s one of the big questions of Glasgow. What has the world, and its politicians, learned about fairness and our ultimate interdependency?