An event believed to be the world’s best last chance in mitigating climate change was held during the month of November in Glasgow, Scotland. One of this year’s most critical talks, the 26th annual climate change conference (COP26) involved 197 states coming together to reach a agreement on tackling climate change. There are two main reasons why COP26 was such an anticipated event. Since the last COP, the window of action has drastically narrowed. The IPCC released a report estimating that there is a fifty-fifty chance that global average temperatures are to exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the next 20 years and if we are to keep warming below 2°C, immediate major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions need to be made. Additionally, COP26 was to be the first major test of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
On the 13th of November 197 countries signed an agreement to the new climate deal called the Glasgow Climate Pact. For the first time in the history of UN talks, the pact mentions fossil fuels. Due to an opposition in the wording by India and China, it was finally agreed to “phase down” instead of “phase out” fossil fuels. Other main agreements made include 190 countries participating in the phase down of coal power, 137 world leaders committing to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, and over 100 countries agreeing to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030. A new UK funding has also announced funding to support vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. Finally, the Glasgow Climate Pact aims to limit warming to 1.5°C.
“This is a fragile win. We can now say that we have kept 1.5°C degrees alive. But its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action,” said Alok Sharma, president of COP26. Such a pressing topic has stirred emotion in many students at La Châtaigneraie. Freya Sharman, a student and member of the eco-crew at la Châtaigneraie states, “I am not surprised by the outcome of COP26. Of course, I was hoping for more ambitious targets and goals but with conferences like these, it is difficult to get all countries to come to a consensus.”
Evidently, after this new climate deal, one pressing question begs to be asked: was COP26 in Glasgow a success?
“I believe there were some successes of COP26, namely the smaller deals between countries regarding deforestation and methane emissions, which I believe will be quite useful,” says Freya. “However, I think the looseness regarding the phase out of coal use has been disappointing. If I were there, I would have pushed for an earlier goal to phase out fossil fuels in order to reach net zero emissions. I would also have advocated for the great possibilities of renewable energy sources.” Another student from La Châtaigneraie and environmental activist Sofiya Lytvynova says, “If you look at what they had the potential to achieve and what they actually did, they’ve done very little.” Then adds, “Additionally, they did not need to fly in with over 100 private jets,” alluding to the 118 private jets taken by world leaders to attend COP26, burning over 1,400 tons of carbon dioxide. Other students from different schools think alike, a student from a private school in Nyon, Sophia Blitz, pointing out that some promises are just for show, saying, “Bolsonaro, for example [Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil], did not actually attend but sent his delegate instead to claim that they will bring advancements to decrease amazon rainforest deforestation by 2028 instead of 2030. Considering his reputation on his previous promises like these, it’s hard to believe him.” She ends by saying, “I’ll believe it [to be a success], once I see change.”
Although the Glasgow Climate Pact was a step in the right direction, laying important building blocks for future action, the present set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), even when fully implemented, will still lead us towards above a 2°C warming by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial levels.
“The approved texts are a compromise… unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions in this decade. Specifically – a 45% cut by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.”
At La Châtaigneraie, the members of the eco-crew share the mutual interest of helping our earth and climate, and hope to make climate change and other global issues a more integrated part of the Ecolint community, from school events to topics taught on the syllabus.
“Some projects we’ve done include COP26 where a bunch of us had the opportunity to interview climate experts. I was able to conduct an interview with Dr. Asante, a member of the IUCN, who was at the conference in Glasgow to learn about her thoughts on the matter,” explains Freya. She ends by inviting other students in La Châtaigneraie’s school community to stop by the eco-crew’s weekly meetings during which they discuss current events or upcoming projects.
“We can all be part of the change,” encourages Freya. There is still hope for our planet. Science tells us that the path we choose in the next few years will be the most crucial in shaping the outcome of climate change, for better or for worse.