COP26 is the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. For nearly three
decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country for global
climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. In
that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority.
This year saw the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK
as President, COP26 took place in Glasgow from 31 October-13 November 2021.
In the run up to COP26 the UK worked with every nation to reach agreement on
how to tackle climate change. As the Presidents of COP26, the UK’s role has
been to act as an impartial chair in bringing all Parties (individual countries and
the EU, which operates as a group) to an agreement by consensus.
World leaders arrived in Scotland, alongside tens of thousands of negotiators,
government representatives, businesses and civil society groups for fourteen
days of talks.
Here are some key takeaways from the conference-
1. Fossil fuels were singled out—but coal is still king. COP26 produced the first-ever international climate pact to explicitly reference fossil fuels, one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions, or to broach limits on the use of coal. While in principle almost all countries have committed to reduce emissions, they could not agree on the key contributors towards emissions, oil and gas, and coal.
2. Covering loss and damage. Even if the world stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the irreversible effects of climate change are already here, from rising sea levels to more intense storms. In COP26 parlance, these unavoidable effects are known as “loss and damage.”
3. Reaffirming Paris Climate Agreement – The Glasgow Climate Pact does not achieve the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris agreement: limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. But it means the world still has a shot at meeting that target.
4. Most of the climate finance currently available goes to funding emissions-cutting projects, such as renewable energy schemes, in middle income countries that could often be funded easily without help, because they turn a profit. But the poorest countries who need money to adapt to the impact of extreme weather struggle to obtain any funding at all. In the end, the text agreed to double the proportion of climate finance going to adaptation. The UN and some countries were calling for a 50:50 split between funding for emissions cuts and funding for adaptation
5.Led by the UK, more than 100 nations have also sought to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade. This includes Canada, Russia, Congo, Indonesia and Brazil, which account for 85 percent of the global forest cover.
The COP26 deal has promised to update the timeframe for revised targets for countries to the end of next year—much earlier than the requirement of every five years, as laid out in the Paris accord. Back then, India had pledged to improve the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, increase the share of non-fossil fuel-based electricity to 40 percent by 2030, and enhance its forest cover to absorb 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
This has been updated at the Glasgow summit with India promising to increase installed renewable capacity to 500 GW, meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from non-fossil fuel sources, and bring down the carbon emissions intensity of the economy by 45 per cent from 2005 levels.
The announcement by over 100 countries to cut methane emissions is another important outcome of COP26. The final agreement on coal may have come as a disappointment to many; however, it lays the foundations for future cuts to emissions from the world’s largest emitters. More is needed from future conferences to ensure that 1.5C warming is the limit of climate change this century. The establishment of future finance frameworks for developing nations affected by climate change is another positive.
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