Photo Credits: Dylan Martinez, REUTERS
Discussion of goals, signing of treaties, and falling short on pledges
Sharon Lee, Associate News Editor
What is COP26?
This year marked the UN’s 26th “Conference of the Parties (COP)”, hence the name COP26. The global climate summit was originally scheduled to be held in November 2020 but was delayed by a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Representatives and world leaders present at COP26 worked together to come to an agreement on how to tackle global climate change. While those at the summit discussed several goals to combat climate change, there was a significant treaty that was brought back to attention: The Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement was created during COP21, the 21st COP, which was held in Paris in 2015. Under the Paris Agreement, all countries agreed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and committed to aim for 1.5 degrees. Each country was to plan on how it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, termed Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The countries agreed to update their plans every five years, and COP26 was the first moment to do so.
By the time COP26 commenced, the commitments from the Paris Agreement did not come close to reaching the limit of 1.5 degrees. Therefore, all countries must work harder in the years to come.
Main goals of the conference
Countries around the world focused on four main goals that they will aim to achieve during COP26.
- Reach global net zero by the mid-century
To work towards limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, countries were asked to create plans that will secure net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. The goal was to have these plans established by 2030. COP26 called on all countries to update their plans but emphasized that developed countries and the largest emitters were to take the lead.
The summit stressed importance of transitioning from plans to actions. These actions include quickly phasing out coal power, curtailing deforestation, switching to electric vehicles, and investing in renewables.
- Protect communities and natural habitats
Climate change has caused many communities around the world, especially that who are vulnerable, to live in devastating conditions. These communities are at risk of losing homes, livelihoods, and lives.
COP26 focused on the need to address the damages caused by climate change and the need for all countries to collaboratively support vulnerable communities. Countries should place more financial need on improving warning systems, flood defenses, infrastructure, and agriculture. Additionally, COP26 suggested for countries to create an “Adaptation Communication”, a summary of their plans to adapt to climate change challenges.
- Place finance to good use
This third goal was made to ensure that the previous two goals can be met. The goal particularly focused on developed countries and the actions they need to take. Specifically, developed countries were called to keep their promise of making $100 billion in climate finance every year to support developing countries. The funds were to be used for plans such as developing infrastructure and investing in technology and innovation. COP26 emphasized that to ensure the net zero emissions goal is met by mid-century, all financial decisions made by every country should take climate change into account.
- Working together to fight against climate change
COP26 stressed that if all countries work together, towards a net zero economy, it will ensure that the goal is met quickly and on time. UN negotiations at COP26 focused on finalizing the Paris Rulebook, which is a list of rules that would allow the Paris Agreement to be put into action. Governments, businesses, and civil society were called to collaborate on resolving transparent reporting issues and removing barriers that prevent any country from working towards the COP26 goals.
Finalizing the Parish Rulebook and creating the Glasgow Climate Pact
Negotiators at COP26 were able to conclude on discussions around the Paris Rulebook, which included carbon markets regulations and regular reporting of climate data. The UK presidency of COP26 pledged to aim for the global warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, as indicated in the Paris Agreement.
One significant outcome from COP26 was the creation of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which states the countries’ commitments to double finance for adaptation to climate change and requests that all countries revisit their climate pledges, strengthen them, and present more ambitious pledges by the end of next year.
While the Glasgow Climate Pact was welcomed by many, others felt disappointment by its lack of strong words to indicate urgency. Additionally, the pact’s requests will likely be ignored by some countries next year. Regardless, all countries are expected to do better at keeping their promises by the end of 2022.
Concerns from scientists and Indigenous communities
Scientific researchers have expressed concern that the Glasgow Climate Pact did not contain stronger measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They also noted that developed countries failed to provide vulnerable nations with the promised $100 billion annual climate funding to rebuild and respond to impacts of climate change.
The pact stated the agreement between countries to reduce coal-fired power and other fossil fuels. However, after China and India raised objections, the pact changed to less-urgent language by stating “phase out” coal instead of “phase down”.
The pact also mentioned the commitment of some countries to end deforestation, but analyses suggest that it is not enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s global warming limit goal.
Indigenous communities have criticized the deals made in the Glasgow Climate Pact, saying that they are “sacrificed” for world leaders to postpone climate action and maintain corporate profits.
The pact created a global carbon trading market, which allows countries to offset their emissions instead of cutting them. Furthermore, the carbon market uses land, forests, and rivers relied on by Indigenous communities for food, water, medicine, and spiritual traditions. These communities are now facing resource shortages and human rights violations.