Three months have passed since the end of one of the most important climate negotiations in recent years: the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. Expectations were high, as were hopes for concrete commitments from the nearly 200 countries that took part in this crucial climate summit.
Responses to the outcomes were mixed; agreements were made that were not on the cards before, but at the same time, according to some leaders and campaigners, the pledges did not go far enough.
The agenda for COP26 was focused on four main goals, which we explained in
this article prior to the conference. Below in brief the main outcomes for each goal:
1) Achieve global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5°C within reach
During the last few days of the conference it became clear that the current pledges – agreed by the countries during the climate summit – will still result in the earth heading for a warming of 2.4°C, which means that more drastic measures will be needed in the very short term to stay within the 1.5°C warming target. To accelerate climate action, countries have agreed to submit their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the 2030 Paris Agreement before the next COP in 2022 in Egypt.
2) Adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats
Protection, conservation, and restoration of nature and ecosystems were an important part of the discussions, although the emphasis seemed to be on the importance of ecosystems to be used as carbon sinks, rather than the important function these ecosystems have in sustaining life on earth.
3) Mobilize financial resources
Much of the negotiation at COP26 was about money. It involved fees for damage repairs, funds for forest conservation, and financial resources for the intended climate adaptation. In that respect, for the release of money, one could say that the conference met expectations, although environmental organizations believe that this only acts as a PR action if more is not also done about fossil fuels.
4) Working together to deliver
The plans from the Paris Agreement were confirmed and ratified during the final days of COP26, meaning that countries have identified the ways in which they will be held accountable for meeting the agreed targets.
What else was covered?
This was the first time a COP meeting discussed the reduction of carbon – responsible for nearly 40% of annual CO2 emissions. There was even initial talk of a hopeful phase-out, however, in the last few days this was restated – at the request of China and India – to a phase-down.
During the first few days of the conference the promising pledge was made to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. This has been signed over 140 countries and covers more than 90% of the world’s forests. A a big promise, which is hopeful, but skeptics are worried that countries won’t end up actually committing. Furthermore, it is not the first time that world leaders have made promises to stop deforestation.
More than 100 countries signed an agreement to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Currently, methane accounts for one-third of human-generated warming. Unfortunately, major emitters China, Russia and India are not among the list of countries that will commit to this, but the hope is that they will join later.
A welcome surprise was the joint US-China statement on more climate action in the current decade. This covers issues such as methane reduction and the transition to green energy. China has been reluctant to reduce coal emissions until now, so this move indicates that they too see the urgency of the situation and want to act accordingly.
Reason for hope?
COP26 has resulted in both surprises and disappointments. Countries are clearly ready for more action than ever, but critics argue that it is still not enough to control climate change. Many of the agreements are hopeful and promising, but time will tell whether countries will actually abide by them.