COP26 finally came to an end last Saturday after two weeks, and a last-minute extra day.
The summit took place after a pandemic-induced lockdown that reduced the human footprint to an unprecedented level due to cuts in flights, traffic, and industrial emissions.
With the world re-activating, 2021 has had a different narrative. This summer, the increasing global temperatures brought back the magnitude and frequency of heavy floods, blazing heat waves, and shrinking glaciers, compromising the lives and livelihoods of thousands.
Thus, when world leaders gathered in Glasgow to deliberate on future climate action, everyone had their eye on them.
So, what have been some of the main agreements and realizations of COP26?
1.5°C is still king
Limiting the rise in global temperatures to just 1.5 Celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels remains focal in climate change discussions. Beyond this threshold point, the risk of natural disasters such as heatwaves and water shortages drastically increases.
Currently, the world has already warmed 1.1 Celsius degrees. To prevent this temperature from increasing, global methane emissions must curb by at least 30% by 2030.
The discourse surrounding methane emissions was one of the main highlights of COP26. For the first time COP made methane one of its central themes. Additionally, 15 of the globe’s biggest emitters were among the 100 nations that signed the Global Methane Pledge.
Emission-cutting strategies do not apply on a global scale.
While everyone understands that the world must half its emissions by 2030, there are still no clear guidelines on who needs to cut and by how much.
For instance, richer countries like the US, Canada, and Japan, responsible for 50% of all the planet-warming greenhouses gases, have pressured counterparts like Indonesia and South Africa to speed up their transition away from coal power and other fossil fuels.
The issue is that the action plan for emission cuts does not apply so seamlessly in countries where financial resources lack to adjust to these changes. Or in countries where the economic model still depends on coal-fueled power.
Hence, the economic disparity between nations became more than evident this COP, and it carried a hint of bitterness. Over a decade ago, at the U.N. Summit in Copenhagen, several wealthy nations pledged to give $100 billion per year to developing countries to support their shift towards climate actions. The target was never met.
The Paris Agreement is now fully operational.
In 2016, 192 states and the EU signed the Paris Agreement. Six years later, the rules for implementing Article 6 finally reached a consensus on COP26.
Article 6 is about how countries can collaborate to generate better emission reductions and create deeper climate action plans.
Discussions surrounding carbon markets eventually got 200 countries to agree on a deal that allows them to partially meet their climate target by buying offset credits from each other that represent emission cuts.
Countries like Brazil pushed for this initiative from the get-go. By being home to most of the Amazon Forest, Brazil has great potential to build wind and solar plants, encouraging investments in projects that would deliver considerable emission reductions. These could then translate into purchasable offset credits.
However, there has also been strong criticism against these trades since they could enable countries to continue emitting high levels of climate-warming gases at the expense of buying more credits to compensate.
All in all,
Beyond the agreements and pledges that came out of COP26, the real concluding note was of urgency. Their call on governments to return with decisive and concrete plans for climate action is a main pending item for 2022.
Finally, the last hope is that by next year’s conference we can see action being taken on all the deals that now constitute the Glasgow Climate Pact. And that we can start implementing these policies to make our own industry more responsible and enduring.