COP26: What was decided during the Glasgow summit<
People had been talking about it for months beforehand, and will surely do so for many more to come: COP26 in Glasgow, held in November 2021, brought more than two hundred world leaders together to make a renewed commitment to action on climate change. After almost two weeks of negotiations, the results achieved were met with reactions that ranged from lukewarm to dissatisfied. But to understand why, we must first take a look at the reasons COP26 was such a long-awaited meeting.
What makes COP26 important?
COP26 was a UN Global Summit, where participating countries were asked to make joint decisions on how to curb climate change.
Many human activities contribute daily to the overheating of the planet, such as the still widespread use of fossil fuels, deforestation, poor waste management and the continuous growth of world population.
A further rise in temperatures is likely to have dramatic effects. Melting glaciers will lead to rising sea levels, reshaping coastlines around the world. Drought, flooding and other extreme weather events will become not only more frequent, but also more destructive.
COP26 in Glasgow also had important political and media implications. Climate activism has gained in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to figureheads that have given voice to the fears of an entire generation.
A study1 involving young people between the ages of 16 and 25 from 10 different countries revealed that more than 60% of respondents are concerned about climate change. As many as three quarters of young people are frightened of the future, and more than half believe that humanity is doomed.
What was decided at COP26 in Glasgow
But now that November's COP26 is over, what results were achieved by our world leaders?
Emissions and global warming
The 151 countries who together are responsible for 81% of global emissions presented a new climate plan to reduce their emissions by 2030. Although this does appear to represent a step forward, the UN considers such a commitment insufficient, as it would still lead to a global temperature increase of 2.5 degrees2 by the end of the century - far more than the conference’s stated objective to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.
The 2030 proposals made by many of the major emission producers seem flimsy and unreliable. The Glasgow Climate Pact calls on these nations to strengthen their climate commitment by 2022, but many see this as a meagre consolation.
Coal and methane
For the first time in a COP summit, COP26 in Glasgow saw the presentation of a plan to reduce the use of coal, which makes up 40% of global CO2 emissions. World leaders decided to gradually phase out subsidies that aim at lowering the price of this raw material, together with oil and other natural gases, although no indication has been given as to the time frame for doing so.
More than 100 nations signed a pledge to cut by 30% methane emissions, one of the main gases responsible for global warming, by 2030. However, two major methane users, Russia and China, pulled out of the pledge. Although, the possibility of them joining at a later stage remains. China signed a bilateral agreement with the United States in which it commits to cooperate by reducing emissions and switching to cleaner energy sources.
More than 100 countries have signed an agreement to stop the systematic knocking down of trees by 2030. Large scale deforestation, that creates space for the cattle pasture of the meat industry, has severely damaged entire ecosystems, as well as the global capacity to absorb CO2 emissions.
Among the signatories of this resolution, there is also Brazil, a country in which entire areas of the Amazon rainforest have been wiped out by uncontrolled deforestation3.
The Glasgow Climate Pact represents a step forward, but experts4 warn that the agreements made on decarbonisation will not be sufficient to avoid a rise in temperatures of 2 degrees by the end of the century.
Onlookers were quick to observe that the big loser of COP26 was the Global South. Developing nations disproportionately suffer the consequences of the climate crisis caused by the North but countries, including the United States, Japan and France, have blocked funding damage compensation for nations negatively affected by present and future climate change.
What can you do?
In order to slow climate change, the world's governments must act promptly and decisively to reduce CO2 emissions. But as individuals, each of us is also responsible for the decisions we make every day and the environmental policies that we decide to support and promote – so much so that Cop26 itself also featured a “Green Zone,” inviting participation from the general public.
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