The latest out of COP26

Published 2021-11-30 15:13:38
TIME IS UP. Global climate change protest demonstration strike - No Planet B - Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Member states at the recent COP26 gathering managed to reach some further clarification on steps to reduce carbon emissions. Thus, they committed to more frequent updates on progress to reduce climate change, and promised increased funding to low-income countries for limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. These proceedings were held under the watchful gaze of many interested parties, and many claim now that the result is disappointing and a clear lack of serious commitment.

Lack of ambition and disappointing commitments

Although climate scientists were relieved at the points in the agreement, many feel that a much more aggressive approach is required to curb the rate at which climate change is occurring.

Certain countries' commitments to the agreement's targets are viewed as weak and with no credible plans to reach their goals of net zero emissions. Most of the pledges made at COP26 are indeed self-policed, and unfortunately very few countries have made their commitment legally binding.

Climate change has been in the spotlight recently as protests have erupted globally for governments to take more substantial steps to change the trajectory of the damage we are inflicting to the climate and the planet at large.

What is COP26?

COP26 stands for Conference of Parties. It was the 26th annual summit of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. These summits first began in 1995. This year, it was held in Glasgow (Scotland) in the first few weeks of November. It was an event where stakeholders can discuss global warming and the current climate crisis.

Member countries reviewed the pledges that were made in the Paris Agreement in 2015 (COP21). The main requirement of that agreement was for countries to make pledges and take action to stave off global warming by cutting emissions by the year 2030. The goal is to eventually achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

There are a total of 197 signatory parties from almost every country in the world. These signatories have all signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is a global environmental treaty responding to climate change.

Other high-profile attendees included climate activist Greta Thunberg, Pope Francis and the famous English broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough.

Why is COP26 critical?

The recent global pandemic caused more governments and interested stakeholders to pay closer attention to the environment and how we affect the climate. Many countries see the post-pandemic economic recovery as an excellent opportunity to "build back better" by taking into account how various industries impact the planet.

COP26 was important because it was seen as the successor to the COP21 which was one of the most successful conferences in recent times. COP26 was the meeting to address all unmet pledges and also construct more robust strategies to reach the targets set in the Paris Agreement.

Another reason all eyes were on COP26 was that this was the first appearance of the United States since they left uner Trump's presidency and then rejoined the Paris Agreement after Joe Biden was elected last year.

The main points of the COP26 agreement

The final agreement that was signed by all members is called the Glasgow Climate Pact and these are the major points that were outlined in the document:

  1. Emissions: countries agreed to meet up again by next year to commit to further carbon emissions reduction to gradually eliminate those greenhouse gases that cause climate change. This should help keep any global temperature increase, which scientists believe will limit global warming to 2.4 degrees Celsius. If countries stick to their climate plans, as outlined in the agreement, the UN calculates that this improves the global warming outlook considerably better than the 4 degrees Celsius increase as projected before the 2015 Paris Agreement.
    The Glasgow Pact requires countries to realign their strategies to achieve targets that were already outlined in the Paris agreement. Countries had to submit detailed long-term action plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
  2. Coal: There was an explicit plan (for the first time ever) unveiled to reduce the dependence on coal and to begin eliminating subsidies on other fossil fuels. Coal creates 40% of total annual carbon emissions.
    After objections from countries like India and China the wording in the agreement was changed - at the very last moment! - from "phasing out" to "phasing down". In these countries the lowest-income households rely heavily on fossil fuels to keep costs down.
    India, which is a country that relies heavily on coal power, has agreed to reach net zero emissions by only... 2070. Saudi Arabia promised to achieve net zero by 2060 and Brazil named 2050 as the year they achieve net zero.
  3. Financial assistance to developing countries: The Pact also reiterates the commitment, made in 2009 (and not reached), of rich countries to devote $100 billion each year to help low-income countries cope with the effects of climate change, like droughts, floods, etc. These funds will also assist in the transition to cleaner energy.
  4. Fossil fuel subsidies: Leaders from various countries also committed to decreasing subsidies that superficially lower the price of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. However, there was no deadline set for this action point.

Further developments at the COP26

  • US-China agreement: The largest carbon dioxide emitters globally are the US and China. They have promised to be more cooperative in the coming years towards making the change to cleaner forms of energy. This is a big step up on the fight against climate change because China was hesitant previously to commit to addressing domestic carbon emissions. 
  • Deforestation:  The Pact also contains commitments from certain countries to curb deforestation and stop completely by 2030. Trees are very important in removing carbon in the atmosphere and converting it to oxygen. Stakeholders are hopeful that this pledge is well funded which should help achieve the goal.  
  • Methane: Over 100 countries agree to a strategy to decrease methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Methane in the atmosphere contributes heavily to global warming. However, high methane emitters like China, Russia and India have not committed to the plan.
  • Financial Investment: Various organisations that collectively control approximately $130tn committed to investing in renewable energy technologies and redirecting investment away from fossil fuel-burning industries. This is to encourage private entities to co-operate and meet net zero goals.

The race against irreversible global warming has been dealt a major blow in the form of a global pandemic where most countries are struggling to contain an immediate danger. Hopefully, COP26 has put the spotlight back on how important addressing climate change is. The final result of the conference will depend on the future actions from the many states involved. It could be "a big step forward" as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, or a lot of "blah, blah, blah" as environmental activist Greta Thunberg mocked.

The next COP27 summit is planned to be hosted by Egypt next year.

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Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert and content writer for

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

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