“We need to rewrite our story to turn this tragedy into a triumph. Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our approach to the industry, construction and learning, and our releasing carbon into the atmosphere are already in trouble. We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on earth.”
Sir David Attenborough
In November 2021, one of the most crucial global meetings attended by many world leaders and their delegations came to a close, focusing on critical decisions now having global ramifications.
COP 26 lasted two weeks and featured intense climate negotiations involving delegates from 197 countries, including the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, China, the United States, and the European Union. The conference’s main objective was to agree on what each country should do to keep global average surface temperatures rising more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Now that the dust has settled on the event let us look back and summarize some of the most important outcomes and accomplishments.
What happened at COP26?
National leaders felt the pressure to take more concrete steps to decrease emissions, increase funding (especially for developing countries), and improve climate resilience and adaptation measures worldwide. As a result, countries like India have increased their pledges to reduce carbon emissions (they have promised to draw half of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030).
The Glasgow Climate Pact took maturity during COP26, and all signatories agreed to review their emissions reduction targets in 2022.
End deforestation by 2030
At climate talks in Glasgow, leaders from more than 100 countries, including Brazil, China, Russia, and the United States, pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2030 in a meaningful deal that covers 85 % of the world’s forests.
Twelve governments and private firms pledged $12 billion and $7 billion, respectively. This pledge is set to protect and restore forests in various methods, including $1.7 billion set aside for Indigenous peoples. Over 30 financial institutions have also pledged to refrain from investing in deforestation-related businesses.
Global Methane Pledge
As many as 104 countries have promised to cut their methane emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030. “Warming could be reduced by at least 0.2°C by 2050 if countries deliver according to the pledge. We need big structural changes, yes, to reach 2050 climate neutrality. But we cannot wait for 2050,” said President von der Leyen in his speech during the launch of the pledge.
Finance for developing countries
In 2009, at the fifteenth conference of the parties (COP15 ) of the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, climate finance funding of $100 billion a year by 2020 was agreed. One of the critical benchmarks for success at the climate summit was channelling financing to developing countries to combat climate change. Still, rich nations failed to deliver on their pledges at the Glasgow meeting.
The IPCC estimates $2.4 trillion is needed annually for the energy sector alone through 2035 to limit global warming below 1.5°C (2.7 Fahrenheit) to prevent catastrophic consequences.
Aviation and the role of offsetting in the sector-wide decarbonization
The International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition (IACAC) launched at COP26. With 23 countries accounting for more than 40% of global aviation emissions pledging sector-specific 1.5°C goals through increased investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAFs) and low-carbon and low-emission aircraft technology.
Rise of the carbon market
A settlement on the market-based system envisioned by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement eventually met an agreement during COP26, six years after initiation. If effectively implemented, the carbon market should allow countries to use international carbon offsets to satisfy their national decarbonization targets.
Concluding remarks and looking ahead
The planet was on course to warm by 2.7°C by the end of the century before COP26. However, the announcements made during the event, the fresh promises, resulted in a decrease of 2.4°C temperature. Nonetheless, this decrease in temperature is not near the Paris Agreement’s 2015 targets. Now, countries representing 90% of global GDP have vowed to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of the century.
Although there has been some progress in many areas since the Paris Agreement at COP21, the formal agreements reached COP26 do not provide reasonable grounds for optimism. This progress should aim at 1.5°C as a goal. However, the goal set at COP21 cannot just be a theoretical possibility. So far, the progress made on transparency and carbon markets is insufficient.
Suppose there is any hope of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. In that case, governments must enhance their NDCs now, ahead of the COP27, and begin putting in place solid policies and regulatory frameworks to promote implementation.