What Were the Accomplishments of this Year’s COP26?

The  2021 United  Nations  Climate Change Conference that took place in Glasgow came to a close in mid-November. The UN has been bringing all countries together for almost three  decades  to take part in these global climate summits. This year’s summit was the 26th annual summit, so the 26 was added to its name. The purpose behind the summit is to discuss and reach agreements on the actions each country should take to tackle climate change.

Thousands  of  government  representatives, business  people, negotiators, and citizens attended the conference over the course of twelve days.  The  COP is not just another international climate summit;  the accomplishments of previous COP summits have proven this.  For instance, COP21 occurred in Paris in 2015. It was this summit that saw each country agreeing to work together for the first time ever.  They agreed to limit global warming to far below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees. It was then that the Paris  Agreement was born, whereby countries pledged to bring forward national plans showing how much they would lower their emissions.  The countries agreed to revisit this with an updated plan every five years. Since this COP was the 26th annual COP, world leaders were pressed to commit to stricter climate pledges.

What were some of the successes of COP26?

The COP26 summit achieved a lot of accomplishments, such as pledges on deforestation,  methane gas pollution, coal  financing,  the  U.S.-China deal, and  carbon trading.

The conference closed with governments requested to return in 2022 with even more substantial pledges around reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  In addition, they were also requested to provide further help through funding to those nations who are most impacted by the climate crisis. Let’s have a look at these in more detail below.

1.   Speeding up progress to achieving the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement by finalising the rulebook

A significant achievement of this year’s COP26 was world leaders agreeing by the end of 2022 to examine and reinforce the 2030  targets  in  their nationally determined contributions in addition to establishing a new annual high-level ministerial meeting from 2022 and leaders’ summit in 2023.

This is good news as it will pressure governments to continue to work to meet the  targets laid out in the Paris Agreement and achieve these goals ahead of the deadlines outlined in the agreement.  Much progress was also made on the rule book, particularly Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.  This section looks at carbon accounting and markets. The updated rulebook looks to unlock market and non-market approaches in relation to both climate change adaptation and mitigation. It will do this by closing loopholes, minimizing the risk of what is called ‘double counting,’ and offering operational certainty and transparency.

2.   Giving more significant support to developing countries

Another issue addressed at COP26 was finance, and governments in attendance agreed that there is a need for more support,  specifically to developing countries. They expressed that the most vulnerable countries can no longer be ignored and that more financial support for adaptation is crucial.

In  addition,  it needs to be predictable. It was also highlighted that developed countries are yet to live up to their Paris Agreement pledges of $100 billion each year to support developing    countries.   With that, governments made commitments to support developing countries financially to protect them from disasters and allow for adaptation.

3.  Putting a stop to deforestation

Another significant achievement from this year’s  COP26 was the commitment from countries to put a stop to deforestation.  Over 100 world leaders committed to not only bringing an end to deforestation but also reversing deforestation by 2030.

Brazil was among the signatories, which is not hugely surprising since large amounts of the Amazon rainforest have been cut down.  Deforestation is absolutely crucial when it comes to fighting climate change as trees can absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

4.   Cutting methane emissions and looking to see the demise of coal

Over 100 countries pledged to cut 30 percent of methane emissions by 2030. Methane has significant impacts on the planet, so this action is considerably powerful. Even more important, half of the world’s top 30 methane emitters – Vietnam, Iraq, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan, Argentina, Indonesia, Canada, the EU, and the US – joined the pledge. Unfortunately, India, Russia, and China are yet to join.

Another positive outcome from the COP26 is that 23 nations committed to phasing out coal power. These include Nepal, Egypt, South Korea, Poland, Ukraine, Chile, Singapore, Vietnam, and Spain. This is part of a larger 190-country coalition that has pledged to phase out coal power and stop supporting new coal power facilities.

As we know, coal is still a huge contributor to climate change. Progress has been made in the past to reduce its use; however, in 2019, coal still produced around 37 percent of the world’s electricity.5.  Establishing plans to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees

The final and most significant outcome from the COP26 summit is the establishment of plans to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Under the Paris Agreement, a total of 195 countries committed to maintaining an average global temperature change below 2 degrees and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.

Before COP26, the planet was on course to achieve a dangerous 2.7 degrees. However, announcements during the summit from experts have confirmed we are on a path now to reach between 1.8 degrees and 2.4 degrees. Parties have now agreed to reconsider their promises by the end of 2022, putting us back on pace for 1.5 degrees.

It is clear the COP26 conference achieved a great deal. However, it is easy to commit and pledge. The hard part is following through with the promises. What it comes down to now is time – whether these world leaders, governments, countries, and nations put their words into action. If all do this and work to achieve the above, we are definitely in a solid position to fight against climate change.

How robotics are Fighting Climate Change

Climate change is accelerating at an alarming rate. It is the defining issue of our generation and majorly impacts all living beings on earth. Given that, it is increasingly important for us to find ways to fight back against climate change in order to salvage our home. One thing that could prove useful in our fight against climate change is robotics.

While it may sound a bit ambitious initially, robotics are said to have huge potential when it comes to climate change. From cleaning waterways to reducing emissions, assisting in disaster management and recovery, and more, they could prove vital.

Below are some ways we can harness the power of robotics to fight climate change.

Climate change is accelerating at an alarming rate. It is the defining issue of our generation and majorly impacts all living beings on earth. Given that, it is increasingly important for us to find ways to fight back against climate change in order to salvage our home. One thing that could prove useful in our fight against climate change is robotics.

While it may sound a bit ambitious initially, robotics are said to have huge potential when it comes to climate change. From cleaning waterways to reducing emissions, assisting in disaster management and recovery, and more, they could prove vital.

Below are some ways we can harness the power of robotics to fight climate change.

Cleaning Waterways

Water pollution is a huge problem we are currently facing due to the chemicals, plastic, waste, and various other pollutants that are entering our waters. This kind of pollution poses huge threats to ecosystems in our oceans and to human health.

Luckily, drone technology can be used to tackle this issue. For instance, the RanMarine Technology’s WasteShark is a water drone that swims on the surface, collecting biomass and debris from the top of the water before it reaches the sea. It has proven to be an effective solution to marine pollution.

It  was  modelled  based  on  the  world’s  largest  fish,  the  whale  shark,  and  is  not  only efficient  but  a  long-term  solution.  The  WasteShark  does  not  disturb  or  threaten  any species  living  in  the  water,  and  the  solution  is  low-cost.  It  is  simple  to  use,  easily transportable, and has a very low carbon footprint. One charge lasts up to 10 hours, and it collects vital data using its built-in sensor probes. It not only covers a greater amount of water than humans could, but it collects waste much quicker too.

Preventing Climate Disasters

Over the past number of years, climate disasters have only become more common and frequent. If you turn on the news, you will often hear of floods, droughts, or wildfires occurring across the globe.

Read our blog: Is flooding the new normal

According  to The  Conversation,  climate  disasters  roughly kill 60,000 people each year and affect 200 million. They also cause up to $150 billion worth of damage. If we are to fight  back  against  climate change,  we  not  only  need  to  reduce  emissions  and  prevent pollution, but we also need to look after each other. Therefore, when these climate disasters occur, it is essential that we have recovery processes in place.

This is one area where robotics can really shine. Some companies have  begun developing robotic systems that can help with post-flood recovery in particular. They help by rescuing the victims. In addition, drone observations can assist in assessing the direction the flood is heading in. They can predict the buildings which are most at risk and, as a result, prioritise these areas for evacuation. The UAV’s aerial images gathered help to determine the best evacuation routes in addition to identifying the clearest path for rescuing people.

Enhancing Recycling

With the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) becoming increasingly important in a world where we are trying to be more sustainable, the sorting process requires a lot of manual work. It involves people picking items over a conveyor belt and sorting them to determine what is actually recyclable.

Robotics can enhance this manual working system and make it hassle-free by using artificial intelligence to sort items. They can then record what is on the conveyor belt. AMP Robotics, in particular, is already doing this and is utilising machine learning and computer vision.

This enables their robots to sort 80 items per minute; this is twice the speed of human sorters. Increasing the time it takes to sort recyclable materials ultimately means increasing the amount of material that can actually be recycled and reused too. This, as a result, can save a lot of emissions and prevent items from going to landfill. It is clear that technology such as this can significantly help in closing the loop of recyclable manufacturing, helping us to create a less wasteful world.

Tackling Deforestation

We are cutting down trees at an alarming rate when they are such a vital resource to the earth. Trees help to cleanse the air and absorb pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide,  and  carbon  dioxide. Deforestation  contributes  to  15%  of  all  greenhouse  gas emissions, according  to  One  Tree  Planted.  The  same source  states  that  we lose 10 million hectares of trees each year due to logging and agriculture. To reverse forest cover loss, conservationists are saying we need to plant a trillion trees.

Robots can help here as they are much faster than humans, being able to plant ten times the amount of trees that humans can. Artificial intelligence can be used to assess which spots are the best to plant trees, and the built-in GPS enables the drones to easily fly to the locations and drop the seeds. Using robotics could greatly help us to restore our forests which is vital if we are to save the planet.

The Estonian company Milrem Robotics has already begun using robotics to plant trees and tackle deforestation to restore our forests. They began by developing autonomous tanks and have progressed to developing an autonomous robot forester capable of planting and nurturing young plants. It carries up to 300 saplings and has the ability to plant a hectare of a forest in under six hours.

In Summary

It is evident that robotics have huge potential when it comes to fighting climate change. They can help in more ways than we could possibly mention in one article, and day by day, entrepreneurs alike are realising this and harnessing their power to leave behind a better world for future generations.

From tree planting drones to underwater waste-collecting drones and robot recycling sorters, robotics can significantly enhance efficiency and produce results much quicker than humans. Technology, particularly robotics, is definitely something that needs to be incorporated into our strategy to save the planet.

We are running out of time; we need to show our governments the potential of robotics and encourage them to be used worldwide. Robotics coupled with our own efforts could make a huge difference.

Why we need to save our mangrove forests

Our destructive habits have left an indelible mark on our planet, and finally, we are starting to pay the price. The recent natural disasters around the world, including the high temperatures, floods and wildfires are just some examples of what effect climate change is presenting.

Since 1970, CO2 emissions have increased by approximately 90%. With the Covid recovery now in full swing, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase by 1.5 billion tons this year, the second-largest increase in history, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

Consequently, there has been a major shift of focus towards the rehabilitation and preservation of blue carbon ecosystems to appropriate them as carbon dioxide sinks.

Unfortunately, due to rising sea temperatures, overfishing, and pollution, coastal systems are being utterly destroyed thus ultimately limiting the extent of their ability to absorb CO2.

Take mangrove forests, for example.

They are some of the most carbon-rich forests on earth, richer even than terrestrial forests. Not only do they protect coasts from erosion and damage caused by storms while maintaining water quality, but they also fix, release, and sequester more carbon by area than all other coastal habitats. It is no wonder then that conservationists and scientists are doing so much to preserve these natural habitats.

Mangrove deforestation and deterioration has been on the increase, due mainly to aquaculture, overfishing, and the effects of pollution. Add to that rising sea temperature and more violent storms and you understand how their root systems become weakened, causing them to destabilize and literally wash away. The destruction of these mangroves has a significant impact on our planet.

Over the last 50 years, mangrove forests have declined by 30-50% and these stressors are causing mangroves to release carbon, rather than sequester it, which is obviously a huge problem.

According to beachpedia, mangrove ecosystems are estimated to sequester and store about 3,767 tons of CO2 equivalent per hectare of mangrove habitat. Mangrove deforestation, on the other hand, accounts for 10% of all CO2 released from global deforestation, even though they only account for 0.7% of global tropical forest area. Let that sink in.

Mangrove trees, which have an odd appearance and look as if they are standing on stilts, can be found along ocean coastlines throughout the tropics. There are reportedly approximately 80 different species of mangrove trees and the forests only grow at tropical and subtropical latitudes near the equator. According to the World Resource Institute, the world lost 192,000 hectares (474,000 acres) of mangroves from 2001 to 2012, a total loss of 1.38% since 2000 (or 0.13% annually).

Coastal areas are protected from storm surge, erosion and dreaded tsunamis by mangrove swamps. Conservation programs often adopt projects aimed at protecting mangrove ecosystems due to their uniqueness and the protection against erosion they provide.

What is destroying mangrove forests?

Apart from the obvious (rising sea temperatures, pollution, and storms), you may be surprised to learn that the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that shrimp farming caused approximately a quarter of the destruction of mangrove forests.

According to WWF, shrimp is the most valuable traded marine product in the world.

Today farmed shrimp (also known as shrimp aquaculture) is a $12 – $15 billion industry. Shrimp production has one of the highest growth rates in aquaculture, at an approximate rate of 10% annually. Farmed shrimp accounts for 55% of the shrimp produced globally. In an effort to save shrimp farmers the exorbitant expense of having to erect high elevation water pumps for their farming operations, governments and development aid agencies have been promoting shrimp aquaculture near tidal areas as a path to alleviate poverty. This has unfortunately been promoted at the expense of wetland ecosystems, proving once again that human survival often comes at the expense of the ecosystems that we actually depend on for our survival as a species. A case of short-term gains over long-term sustainability. Or to put it differently, humans shooting themselves in the foot once again.

In terms of mangrove loss, Asia is guilty of the largest destruction with almost double the global average, despite this region boasting the world’s largest mangrove area.

Zero mangrove loss

 According to the World Resources Institute, The Sundarbans (10,000 square km, about three-fifths of which is in Bangladesh) is home to the world’s largest area of mangrove forest, spanning approximately one million hectares. The forest is a famous biodiversity hotspot, home to 35 reptiles, 42 mammals, and 270 species of birds. The forest also protects threatened and endangered species like the Indian python, Bengal tiger, and the estuarine crocodile. It is interesting to note that it’s the only area known to have tigers that are ecologically adapted to mangrove habitats.

The Sundarbans is teeming with dozens of reptile and amphibian species. Crocodiles, Indian pythons, cobras, and marine turtles can be found in abundance in this biosphere. Established in 1984, Sundarbans National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 as well as a biosphere reserve.

How do we protect our mangrove forests?

 It’s easy to feel somewhat helpless and stressed after reading this blog. However, there are things you can do to help reverse the destruction of these important forests.

An organization doing amazing work around mangrove forest preservation is The Global Mangrove Alliance – a new collaboration between Conservation International (CI) and its partners.

In terms of supporting the preservation of mangrove forests, The Global Mangrove Alliance recommends that you firstly look for sustainable alternatives to eating farmed shrimp from mangrove areas. Secondly, they suggest finding governmental and local conservation organizations in your area that are focused on conserving mangrove forests and try to support them in any way you can. Conservation of mangrove ecosystems includes education, policy, science, and many other things.

We can either sit back and say it’s someone else’s problem, or we can do something by supporting the dedicated organizations that are actually saving these important habitats. After all, saving mangrove forests ultimately means saving ourselves.

Will you support a mangrove forest preservation organization today?