COP26

  • by Maemara

Pledges over policy and how the world leaders have copped out of cutting down climate change.

What is COP26?

COP26 or the UN Climate Change Conference was held this year (October 31st - November 12th)  in Glasgow after being held virtually for 2020. The 26 from the COP26 comes from the fact that this is the 26th Climate Change Conference that has been held.  

It brings together world leaders, influential people, and companies to discuss the climate change issue and how it is affecting us, and how they may be able to reduce it with changes to how we all go about living in this world. 

What we know now as the UN Climate Conference was first held in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan but what predates this is the 1995 Berlin annual climate conference. In 1997, the ‘Kyoto Protocol’ was adopted by all the countries involved and was an international treaty that required the 36 countries that participated, to commit to reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions and it was based on the scientific consensus of the fact that global warming was real and it was happening and is still happening, and it was caused by the man-made CO2 emissions. 

In this period, all of these countries fully participated and had complied with the Protocol by reducing their emissions but between 1990 and 2012, global emissions increased by 40%, (World Bank Data -

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.GHGT.ZG?end=2012&start=1991).

Replacing the Kyoto Protocol - Paris Climate Agreement 2015

In 2015, in Paris, 196 parties all agreed to sign the legally binding agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees - preferably 1.5 degrees, the levels before the time of the industrial revolution. 

This agreement replaced the ‘Kyoto Protocol’ which was deemed a failure. The protocol from its inception was complicated and failed to include the USA and big developing countries such as China and India and starting in 2011 some of the biggest countries started to pull out including Japan, Canada, and New Zealand. By not including these developing countries and the USA, they weren't required to reduce their emissions.

Pledges over Policy

In the run-up to the event and as it started, 118 private jets landed in Glasgow which carried politicians including Boris Johnson who flew from London and back for a dinner, and CEO’s like Jeff Bezo, using over 1,000 tonnes of CO2 (according to Forbes) - the average usage for around 100 people in the UK per year. This has been called out by many climate activists as hypocritical as they used one of the most inefficient ways to travel to a climate conference, journeys that could have been completed on the regular flights that were scheduled. 

These issues and criticisms aren’t all that the leaders and others have faced throughout the conference from the press, social media, and activists alike. In 26 years of conferences, there has been little, meaningful action to help curb the rise in global CO2 levels and fossil fuel usage with the use of fossil fuels only set to decline in the second half of this century despite the pledges for the wider use of renewable energy, according to edie.net news.  This can be seen in the way that most of these ‘important’ people choose to travel to COP26 and how they aren’t as serious in their wider commitments to reducing carbon emissions. 

The word pledge kept coming up in the speeches that world leaders and CEOs made at COP26 and other climate conferences which allows for their speeches to be hard-hitting, truthful, and make the grandeur promises to the UN and their citizens but that is all they are, promises and pledges - they are not policies, only making tangible policies for reducing CO2 and help the global goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will the goal of Net Zero by 2050 be achievable as there are no projections only road maps.

Now that COP26 has come to an end, what are the outcomes of the event?

As the event in Glasgow came to a close at the weekend, the key takeaway was the Glasgow Climate Pact - It is the first climate deal to plan to explicitly reduce coal, the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gas emissions, the deal also urges more emission cuts and money for developing countries - according to the BBC.  

The pledge doesn't do enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees but the earlier agreement to ‘phase out’ coal was objected to by India and China in earlier talks about to deal so the term was changed to ‘phase down’ meaning that coal will still be used even if that usage goes down. Whilst some delegates from governments such as the UK and US were pleased that COP26 in Glasgow had been the start of the ‘real’ fight for climate change and could be looked back on in years to come as a positive turnaround, others such as the Swiss environment minister Simonetta Sommaruga said, "We would like to express our profound disappointment that the language we agreed on, on coal and fossil fuels subsidies, has been further watered down," this will not bring us closer to 1.5C, but make it more difficult to reach it," (source BBC).

As it came to a close the summit as a whole has been both a disappointing and a crucial time in the fight against climate change which can be seen in how yet another pledge has been made to limit the rise in temperature, yet it has been diluted to allow powerful nations to feel more comfortable about the way they have to change.

And overnight key architects of the Paris Climate Agreement called the pledge and its targets too weak to stop the climate catastrophe that we are heading to as well as the criticisms that the second draft faced by campaigners.

Some civil society groups and campaigners staged a walkout at the COP26 venue as it drew to a close in a way to condemn the lack of ambition that the 12 days event had over the climate crisis that we are facing, according to the Guardian.

Whilst key talks and pledges were made, is it a case of the other climate summits? Every year they come together to discuss what to do and yet another set of pledges are made and it continues in this cycle with little action actually happening.

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