What is COP26?
COP26 stands for Conference of the Parties and is the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which was postponed from 2020 to the 31st of October 2021 to 12th November 2021 because of Covid-19. At the conference, policy makers and scientists from all over the world were coming together to discuss the Paris climate agreement from 2015 and the UN report from this year, which called out code red for our planet.
But what exactly are the wanted achievements of COP26?
Firstly, the world should secure global net zero by midcentury and keep 1.5C within reach. There are ambitious targets for 2030, which should be signed by the participants. This NDC’s (Nationally Determined Contribution) is a climate plan to cut down emissions. After the Paris Agreement from 2015 the countries should suggest a plan, follow the plan and adapt it every five years. To renew the plan, COP26 wants a phase-out of coal, encouragement for investments in renewable energy, a limit for deforestation and a switch to electric vehicles.
Secondly, there is the need to adapt to protect communities and natural habitats. The goal for this achievement is to protect and restore ecosystems all over the world. COP26 wants to build defenses, implement warning systems and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient. The planet boundaries are on their edges and there must be changes to keep the earth within these barriers.
All these measurements cannot be implemented without money. So where is this money coming from? The plan from the Paris Agreement was that countries raise at least $100 billion per year. But that did not work out. The achievement for this conference is that international financial institutions and private and public sectors must play their part.
The rulebook from the 2015 Parisian conference is not done yet and therefore must be finished in this conference. These ambitions are actions against the climate crisis by collaborations between governments, businesses and civil societies.
Actual resolutions from COP26
The conference was extended to Saturday, 13th November because no agreement regarding the regulations was found in the anticipated time frame. Finally, the regulations were published in the evening and are stated as the following:
- Over 200 countries decided to keep the 1.5C boundary active
To reach or keep this goal they decided to cut down 45% of the CO2 emissions by 2030 (in relation to 2010). This should be done by cutting down short term reductions. Over 90% of the countries now have a net zero target.
- Cut down fossil fuels
After objections by China and India the ban of using coal power stations was changed to the degradation of them.
- Climate plans should be updated every 5 years and every country must report their emissions to the UN
All countries should update their climate plans to stay in the 1.5C boundary and accomplish the NDC’s. Also, there is a following conference in 2022 to update the targets.
- By 2025 $35billion should be raised for developing countries with help from the Adaptation Fund
For financing all these actions poorer countries will receive $35billion till 2025 to adapt and improve their climate plans.
- End deforestation by 2030
- Transportation should get emission free by 2035 or 2040 depending on the market situation
Overall, these measurements are not as strict as expected. COP26 president Alok Sharma commented that “its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action” and in the COP26 press release it is stated “that with the full implementation of the fresh collective commitments could hold temperature rise to 1.8C” calculated by independent experts Climate Action Tracker. However, for smaller islands this rise could be the downfall.
So, how successful was COP26 and what is society thinking about it?
Some of the agreements may lead to the thinking that it is still possible to save the planet. According to the IPCC report, there is a high confidence that “global warming […] surpass[es] 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”. And that happens even when there are ambitious targets to reach by 2030.
That is why there are a lot of critics and voices against COP26. Criticism comes not only from popular Fridays for Future, which are calling “for radical, immediate action, not government and corporate greenwashing. Listen to the science and voices of those already affected!.” News articles about COP26 are published from all over the world mentioning also critics coming from countries which participated at the conference. As specified by the guardian, developing countries raised their voices because they need more money to cut their CO2 emissions and deal with the effects of the climate crisis. This required money should be provided by richer nations.
As a student in Sustainable Communication my thoughts are mixed. I know that time is running out and we really need to do something against climate change. My hopes were high for this conference because I believed that many of the countries now had understood the importance of this topic and that we cannot live on this planet without keeping it within its boundaries. But unfortunately, making money is more important than the planet we live on because the results are not speaking for themselves. I think it is all a big greenwashing show because almost none of these people really believe what they are speaking about. All over the world climate change shows its effects, like heat waves or floods. What else has to happen, so that people realize how urgent and important this topic is and that we do not have time till 2050 or 2060? And how loud should we as citizens be to be heard by policy makers?
Eco-Business: “COP26: Coal, cash and trees on the agenda as Glasgow talks kick off” https://www.eco-business.com/news/cop26-coal-cash-and-trees-on-the-agenda-as-glasgow-talks-kick-off/
Fridays For Future Scotland: https://twitter.com/FFF_Scotland/status/1458851113373999105
Greenpeace: “We need real climate action now, not greenwashing scams” https://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaign/cop26/
Greenpeace Instagram Post https://www.instagram.com/p/CWCgsJflr7R/
IPCC report https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Tagesschau Instagram Post https://www.instagram.com/p/CWQAd4ZKB-1/
The Guardian: “Cop26 draft criticised for lack of financial help for vulnerable countries” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/10/cop26-draft-calls-for-tougher-emissions-pledges-by-next-year
United Nations: “All About the NDCs” https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/all-about-ndcs
UN Climate Change Conference: “COP 26 explained”https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/COP26-Explained.pdf
UN Climate Change Conference: “COP26 keeps 1.5C alive and finalises Paris Agreement” https://ukcop26.org/cop26-keeps-1-5c-alive-and-finalises-paris-agreement/