Environmental Science

COP26 The Planet Saved! Actually, Not Quite

COP26 The Planet Saved! Actually, Not Quite

The 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) on Climate Change in Glasgow has ended. Have Earth’s residents finally realized that making their planet less hospitable is not the greatest long-term survival strategy. It is close, but not quite. While some applauded the conference’s progress, others criticized the result as “disappointing,” “empty words,” and a parade of “greenwashing” by wealthy nations. COP26 ended late on Saturday evening, much past its statutory deadline of 6 p.m. on Friday, with 197 parties signing what will know as the Glasgow Climate Pact. Getting dozens of global powers to agree on a single accord is no easy task, and the final wording reflects these difficulties, seeming unclear and weak in places.

This the first climate accord to specify specifically that coal, the most harmful fossil fuel in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, must reduce. Alok Sharma, the President of COP26 and the host nation, the United Kingdom, stated that “consigning coal to history” was a key goal of the climate conference. It is also the first time an environmental pact clearly acknowledges the relationship between climate change and biodiversity, emphasizing the critical need to conserve and restore natural ecosystems.

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COP26 The Planet Saved! Actually, Not Quite

The coal commitment, on the other hand, was substantially watered down, with the terminology changed from a “phase-out” to a comparably weak “phase down.” Sharma plainly dissatisfied by the last-minute modification, which was reached through a deal including the United States, China, India, and the European Union (the EU later condemned the change in language, despite supporting it). 

Sharma said he was “very sorry” for how the discussions ended on Saturday, holding back tears. Similarly, weak wording was added in paragraphs on the termination of fossil fuel subsidies, which might possibly operate as a loophole to allow fossil fuels to continue to get financial assistance.

The accord was criticized by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called it an “important step” but “not enough.” “The COP26 decision is a compromise.” It represents today’s world’s interests, paradoxes, and lack of political will,” Guerres remarked on Saturday.

“Our delicate world is on a knife’s edge. We are still on the verge of a climatic disaster. Now is the moment to switch to emergency mode. Subsidies for fossil fuels must phase out. Coal should phase out. Put a price on carbon emissions. Ensure that vulnerable populations are protected from the effects of climate change. Also, follow through on the vow to provide $100 billion in climate funding to underdeveloped nations.”

Glasgow was described as the “last best hope” to keep global warming below the 1.5°C (2.7°F) threshold, beyond which the worst effects of climate change will be unleashed. According to an official press statement from the climate negotiations, “almost 200 countries agreed to “keep 1.5°C alive.” While the target of keeping global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) is still within reach, many people are skeptical that the deal will help them achieve it. “It’s timid, it’s feeble, and the 1.5°C target is barely alive, but a signal has been given that the coal age is coming to an end.” And that matters,” Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, Jennifer Morgan, said in a statement.

The COP26 climate meetings have also been chastised for shielding wealthy nations while neglecting the concerns of poorer countries, many of which would be most struck by the crisis’s worst effects. 

Developed countries have failed to meet their commitment of $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.  There has also been no significant movement on “damage and loss,” which would aid nations most vulnerable to climate change’s consequences. “Even if authorities in Glasgow kept their promises, villages like mine would still be destroyed.” Drought and flooding killing people in Uganda right now, thanks to 1.2 degrees of global warming,” Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan activist with Fridays for Future, wrote in an email. “For the first time, we have a COP resolution asking for steps to phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies,” Power Shift Africa’s Mohamed Adow explained. “The restriction of the terminology to just encompass ‘unabated’ coal power and ‘inefficient’ subsidies makes room for experimental technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS), which are only available to the wealthy.” For all fossil fuels, we need a worldwide phase-out that is quick, equitable, and complete.” In this context, one crucial topic on which all parties agreed at COP26 was to shorten the period between each country’s 2030 emissions goal review, sometimes known as the “ratchet mechanism.” Previously, nations were only required to disclose and enhance their carbon target intentions every five years, but now they will be required to do so every year, increasing the pressure to reduce emissions quicker.