Lessons Learned From COP26

World leaders gathered at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland for two weeks of discussions to reduce the planet’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Following behind closed doors negotiations, the leaders agreed on a new climate change agreement. The agreement includes an effort to phase down coal and to transition away from fossil fuels.

The negatives

In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, global emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030. However, it is reported that currently global emissions are going in the opposite direction and will rise to almost 14%.

Countries in the developing part of the world made a plea for climate justice, as these countries will experience devastating storms and floods following the richer, developed countries’ inaction. The developing countries left COP26 with promises of action in the future, but without a definitive agreement.

Over 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% in the next 8 years and a coalition of countries agreed to put an end to deforestation by 2030. The world’s two biggest emitters, the USA and China, announced a partnership to cooperate and tackle their climate action targets together. Unfortunately, it is not enough. Countries will need to pledge more if we are to reach the 1.5 degrees limit.

The positives

Countries across the world updated their emission plans or “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) for the first time since the Paris agreement 6 years ago. The NDCs are usually presented every 5 years, but discussions have been taking place at this year’s COP, asking whether countries should be pledging their commitments on a more regular basis.

Following COP26 in Glasgow, countries are being requested to revisit and strengthen their NDCs in 2022. This offers hope that some countries will develop NDCs with larger impact after receiving feedback at this year’s gathering.

Finally, another positive outcome of COP26 was the agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and to phase down coal. Although, the latter is receiving some criticism as the wording “phasing down” implies countries can continue to produce, use and export coal.

The Glasgow Climate Pact keeps 1.5 alive, but for many it is now on “life support”.

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