After being delayed a year due to COVID-19 and two weeks of intense meetings and negotiations, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is now done and dusted. If you didn’t manage to keep up with everything that happened during the global climate summit, we’ve got you covered!
Here are some of the major takeaways from COP26:
World Leaders Agreed To End Deforestation
Leaders from 110 countries pledged to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 in a massive deal that involves almost US$20 billion in funding.
China, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, the US, Russia and the UK are some of the countries that have signed on to the Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forest and Land Use. Altogether, the agreement covers around 85% of the world’s forests.
Countries Agreed to Cut Methane Emissions
More than 100 countries have agreed to cut their methane emissions by 30% by 2030, compared with 2020 levels. The Global Methane Pledge, whose signatories include the US, Japan and Canada, will tackle methane leaks from oil and gas wells, pipelines and livestock farming.
This pledge is important, since most international climate summits usually focus mainly on carbon dioxide. However, methane is responsible for around 30% of global warming, making it an important gas to cut.
Countries Debated Over the Use of Coal
Shockingly, The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first U.N. climate deal to explicitly mention coal and subsidies for fossil fuels. However, not everyone is happy about the deal because the language was watered down to allow for coal to continue being burnt; a preliminary draft of the agreement called on countries to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” Then, it urged countries to move away from “unabated coal” and “inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.” Finally, China and India pushed for another change, saying that they would only agree to “phase-down unabated coal,” rather than “phase out.”
20 Countries Pledged to Stop Funding Overseas Fossil Fuel Projects
Before COP26, several countries had already promised to end funding for overseas coal projects, but this agreement, called the Clean Energy Transition, is the first to include oil and gas projects as well. Signatories include the UK, US, Canada, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand, who have committed to “end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022, except in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
We need to take this news with a pinch of salt, however: countries could use this agreement as an excuse to explore ways to harvest more fossil fuels domestically.
The US and China Agreed to Work Together on Climate Goals
In a surprise announcement, the US and China said that they would work together on an “agreement to ramp up their climate ambitions.” While the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters agreed on a range of issues, including methane emissions, the transition to clean energy and de-carbonisation. However, right now, the details are still vague.
Countries Finally Agreed on Rules For Carbon Offset Markets
A carbon offset is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for emissions made somewhere else. The last two COP summits failed to reach an agreement on how to deal with these markets, but this time, negotiators managed to set rules for them, potentially allowing trillions of dollars to go into protecting forests, building renewable energy facilities and other climate change-fighting projects.
The final deal, adopted by nearly 200 countries, will allow countries to partially meet their climate targets by buying carbon offsets. However, people have criticised carbon offsets, since it essentially allows users to keep emitting as usual, while claiming to be sustainable.
COP26 Keeps Hopes of 1.5C Rise Alive
COP26 ended with nearly 200 countries agreeing to keep the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5C within reach.
The Glasgow Climate Pact, combined with increased ambition and action from countries, means that 1.5C remains in sight, but it will only be delivered with immediate action. All countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their current emissions targets to 2030, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), in 2022.
Developed Countries Will Increase Funding For Developing Nations To Adapt to Climate Change
As far back as 2009, developed countries agreed to provide USD$100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. However, this goal hasn’t been met. At COP26, some countries announced new climate finance pledges, including:
- The US, who has pledged US$11.4 billion per year by 2024, as well as US$3 billion for climate adaptation
- The UK, who will double its funding to US$11.6 billion between 2020 and 2025
- Canada, who will double its climate finance support to US$5.3 billion between 2020 and 2025
- Japan, who will contribute US$10 billion in funding over the next five years for reducing emissions in Asia
These pledges have been estimated to total US$96 billion a year by the end of 2022, still slightly falling short of the original goal.
Overall, COP26 didn’t quite deliver in terms of meaningful agreements. However, what’s done is done and world leaders need to be held accountable and take action on their promises.
COP27 will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in 2022. For more info on COP26, visit ukcop26.org.
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