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.