COP 26 – the Outcomes

COP26 hosted by the UK (and Italy) in Glasgow did at last gain some media attention but long after our series of blogs starting here. Now that it’s over, we look at the outcomes and what they mean for us.

Why was COP26 crucial?

The IPCC report said that If we don’t act on greenhouse gases, the Earth will warm more than 1.5 ̊C by the end of this century. This will be a catastrophe for humans and the natural world. We are already seeing much disruption and suffering caused by a warming planet. Even if we get to 1.5 ̊C, things will get worse. COP26 goals aimed to keep that target within reach to prevent even more disastrous outcomes.

Did it Work?

No.

The agreements give us much less than we need. Climate Action Tracker says that the pledges from the agreement from COP26 (Glasgow Climate Pact) mean we are on track for 2.4 ̊C by the end of the century (based on the pledges) or 2.7 ̊C (based on what we are doing now).

What are the Problems?

Net zero pledges

197 parties are signed up to the Glasgow Climate Pact. More than 140 countries (who produce 90% of emissions) have announced net zero goals. Climate Action Tracker looked at 40 countries (85% of emissions) and found very few have plans to get there.

https://climateactiontracker.org/media/images/CAT_2021-11_Briefing_NetZeroTargets-TargetDes.width-1000.png
https://climateactiontracker.org

Coal

Coal is the fossil fuel that produces most greenhouse gas. COP26 failed to reach agreement to phase it out by 2030. Wording was changed to ‘phase down’, due to demands from India and China. This was badly received by other nations. Many of these, such as the low-lying island states, contribute hardly anything to climate change but are already suffering the impact. Alok Sharma (UK’s COP President) gave an emotional apology in his summary address, apologising for this failure.

Finance

Countries that are already suffering from the impact of climate change were also disappointed that no fund has been set up so that rich nations can pay back for the damage already caused by all the emissions they have produced in the past.

Was COP26 a Complete Failure?

No.

In many ways this was a ground-breaking summit.

  • COP26 is not the end
    • Nations to return in a year with improved plans
  • Fossil fuels included in the agreement (for the first time!)
    • More than 140 countries pledged to reach net-zero
    • The beginning of the end of fossil fuel use
  • More funding for adaptation agreed
    • An apology that rich countries have broken promises so far.
  • Rules on transparency agreed
  • Pledges to reverse deforestation by 2030
    • More than 100 countries
    • Includes Brazil
  • Global methane pledge
    • Agreeing to cut emissions by 30% by the end of the decade.
    • More than 80 countries signed up
  • Transition to sustainable agriculture
    • 45 countries pledged
    • More than 4 billion dollars
  • Move to renewables
    • India promised to draw 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030
  • USA and China agreement
    • World’s two biggest CO2 producers
    • Pledge to work together to keep 1.5 alive
    • Next meeting has already been scheduled soon
Photo by Lingchor on Unsplash

What Does this Mean for Climate Change and our Future?

Views have changed. Even though climate science deniers have tried hard to persuade people that it isn’t a problem, almost nobody is in doubt that it’s real and serious. There is also overall agreement about what we need to do.

Much valuable work is being done by groups and partnerships all across the world focussed on reducing emissions, protecting and restoring the environment and on adaptation. The problem is that we need to make big changes but that some governments think they need to keep burning fossil fuels.

As it stands:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise.
  • The average temperature of the Earth will exceed 1.5°C (above pre-Industrial levels by the end of the century, or earlier).
  • There will be more events like those we have seen in recent years:
    • fires
    • floods
    • droughts
    • extreme weather
    • environmental damage
    • species extinction
    • human death and displacement.
  • We will all be affected in some way.
  • With no further mitigating action, the Earth could continue to warm up to the point where nothing can live on the planet.

Should we Just Give up?

Absolutely not. We are not there yet. It’s not enough and it’s too slow at the moment, but it’s movement in the right direction. Once positive steps are taken, further change can happen swiftly. Tipping points can work both ways.

What can I do?

The response to feeling helpless in the face of climate change was written about in Action21 Blog ‘Action 21 and Climate Change – Debunking Some Myths: Part 4’, and still holds true.

Everyone’s behaviour can support the move to carbon-zero practices.

In our series on COP26 we also wrote about COP Goal 3, which stresses how we need to elect people who take climate change seriously. Many local councils, like Warwick District have already begun to divest from fossil fuels but there are a lot more like Warwickshire County Council that are not acting quickly enough. People can influence their council by contacting their local representatives directly or supporting organisations like Warwickshire Climate Alliance who produced this report on the County Council’s ‘Climate Emergency Plan’.

We need to keep up the pressure on decision-makers at all levels.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference#Outcomes

https://www.wri.org/paris-rulebook

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-59277788

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_Climate_Pact

https://climateactiontracker.org/press/Glasgows-one-degree-2030-credibility-gap-net-zeros-lip-service-to-climate-action/

https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/un-climate-negotiators-go-into-overtime-save-15-celsius-goal-2021-11-13/

https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_832766_en.html

https://www.warwickdc.gov.uk/news/article/714/council_delivers_on_commitment_to_divest_funds_from_fossil_fuels