What happened at COP26?

The 26th summit for the ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP), held in Glasgow, concluded last Friday, November 12th. It was predicted to be monumental: many believed it would be our best chance to stop the climate crisis before it was too late. Did this happen? The answer is not very straightforward. 

A new deal, the Glasgow Climate Pact, was agreed to; it was the first to explicitly mention and aim to reduce coal, one of the worst fossil fuels. However, opposition to the wording from India and China resulted in a change from aiming to ‘phase out’ to ‘phasing down’. India’s climate minister Bhupender Yadav raised an important question: how are developing countries expected to phase out coal completely when they have other issues, like infrastructure and poverty to deal with? On the other hand, this changed wording will likely result in many nations continuing to use coal and not acting in the best interest of the environment. 

The main achievements of the Glasgow Climate Pact are: the emission cutting plans to try to not surpass a global temperature of 1.5°C; the explicit mention of a fossil fuel, coal; and increased financial support for developing countries. 

While these changes may indeed be the beginning of the end of the climate crisis, it is clear that COP26 did not achieve enough to ensure this. Oil and gas, two other major fossil fuels commonly used by more developed nations, were not mentioned in the agreement, which will give these countries the opportunity to continue acting unsustainably. The promise of financial support is relatively meaningless: in 2009, developed nations promised $100 billion per annum to emerging economies, an amount to be delivered by 2020. The date was missed, so it is likely that the promise of increased financial aid by 2025 will follow a similar trend. 

Hopefully, COP26 has encouraged countries to reflect on their environmental impact and act more sustainably. Unfortunately, the limitations of this agreement and the trend developed nations have exhibited in the past leaves many doubtful about the significant impact the Glasgow Climate Pact will have. 

-Kate Grossenbacher




Image: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20211014IPR14913/climate-change-raise-global-ambitions-to-achieve-strong-outcome-at-cop26 

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