What Was COP26 & What the Heck Happened in Glasgow?
- COP26 was a meeting held by the UN, from October 31st to November 12th, 2021, to get the nations of the world to agree to solutions to the climate crisis.
- Positive outcomes were non-binding pledges to reduce methane emissions, coal-financing, and deforestation, plus improving carbon trading markets and funding to developing nations.
- The agreement is another incremental response to global warming, insufficient to deal with our present crisis.
- The real stars of COP26 were the protesters, who demanded strong, decisive action and meaningful pledges from world leaders.
The climate crisis has become a looming threat towering over us. For decades, we’ve known what was coming if we kept burning fossil fuels, but the evidence was presented in dry data and statistics.
Now, the evidence is no longer just charts and numbers. Today we are seeing the devastating effects of the climate crisis in roaring wildfires, heavy storms, cataclysmic flooding, deadly heatwaves, crop failures… The news today is starting to resemble a montage from the prologue of a disaster movie.
COP26 was meant to do something about that
COP26 (Conference of the Parties) was a meeting held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, Scotland. This is the 26th COP meeting since they began in 1995, hence COP26.
If there have been 26 of these meetings already, then what was so special about this COP?
The Paris Climate Accord came out of COP21 back in 2015, and in Glasgow the world’s governments were supposed to revisit the Paris Accord and make sure everyone is still on track to keep global warming under 1.5 ⁰C.
In the Paris Accord, every country agreed to create an NDC, a Nationally Determined Contribution, which is the amount they pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their territory.
The big problem is that even if we combine every NDC together, we’re still looking at 2.⁴⁰C of warming, not 1.5 ⁰C. That’s not nearly enough emissions cuts. Now, 0.⁹⁰C may seem like a small difference, but on a planetary scale, that’s a matter of life and death for millions of people. The hope was that at COP26 delegates would work together to fix that immense problem and align our global actions with our goals.
Who was attending?
There were over 40,000 delegates in all. Many delegates were from the UN member states, plus a few non-member states, all of whom have agreed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. There were also delegates from NGOs and business, including over 500 delegates associated with fossil fuel interests (that’s more than any country sent).
But the real stars of COP26 weren’t in the room making the decisions. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in the streets of Glasgow. They were bringing attention to climate justice, indigenous rights, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and demanding strong, effective action from the COP26 leaders. Over 25,000 youths from around the world marched with Greta Thunberg’s organization, Fridays for Future. The protesters made eye-catching visuals to keep the public’s attention. Some made beautiful artwork. Some made hilarious parodies. But the sheer number and volume of the protests was what really kept the world’s eyes on Glasgow.
Usually, COP meetings don’t make juicy headlines, but it seems that recently the public has finally started waking up to the Climate Crisis en masse. Awareness has slowly been growing over the years, but it appears that with the combination of constant climate emergencies around the world, new youth climate activists taking center stage, and the pandemic giving people time to reflect on what’s truly important, we’ve hit a critical mass where the voice of the people is overwhelmingly pro-climate action. Now people are demanding to know what the heck our leaders are doing about global warming.
Over 100,000 protesters descended on Glasgow, Scotland for COP26
So, how did world leaders solve the Climate Crisis at COP26?
The Glasgow Climate Pact is full of incremental steps, which is nice, but completely inadequate to face the severity of this crisis. We were let down by our leaders.
The positive outcomes are still worth celebrating:
There were pledges from 100 nations to cut methane emissions by 30%, which is vitally important. But the delegates from China, Russia, and India (that’s 35% of global methane emissions right there) didn’t join that pledge.
Delegates from the USA and China made a bi-lateral agreement to boost renewable energy, and reduce deforestation and methane emissions.
Developed Nations re-commited to providing $100 billion to Developing Nations to help cut emissions and prepare for the effects of Global Warming.
Over 200 delegations agreed to phase-out coal, which was shockingly the first time a COP agreement has acknowledged fossil fuels as the driver of global warming! But the delegates from India and China, the two largest coal-burning nations, changed the language to a “phase-down” at the last minute, further weakening an already non-binding agreement.
Delegates agreed to come back next year with proposals for improved NDC’s that can keep the planet under 1.5 ⁰C.
The president of the COP26, Alok Sharma, was visibly emotional at the end of the conference, and even apologized to the delegates and the world. Many people viewed this conference as our last hope to stay below 1.5 ⁰C. What we got fell far short of that goal.
So what can we do?
The window is closing to hit our 1.⁵⁰C target… but at least we still have a window. If we take decisive action within the next few years, we can achieve a stable climate for our children and future generations.
It’s clear that we as individuals can’t solve this. We need collective action, and we need business and government leaders to act fast. So, what can you do?
The good news is that public pressure is actually working. COP26 grabbed headlines, and that’s because the public is finally getting more engaged. So stay engaged!
- We need you to elect leaders that are pro-climate action to halt deforestation, cut emissions, grow the green economy, and build strong carbon markets around the world to funnel billions of dollars of investment back into nature.
- We need you to put pressure on businesses to slash their emissions and hold them accountable for offsetting the emissions they can’t avoid. Engaging with brands on social media can be a great way to let them know the climate is important to their customers.
- If you’re a business leader, we need you to take bold action. There is immense profit in having a green brand, and having a track-record of net-zero emissions will help your business stand out and attract valuable attention.
If you want to offset your carbon footprint, the Carbon Offset Company can help you invest your money in nature by replanting forests and creating habitat for biodiversity. We support projects from replanting Californian forests devastated by wildfires, to paying locals in Mozambique to replant mangrove forests, which capture CO₂, provide protection from storm surges, and provide healthy ecosystems for native species to thrive in.
Join us in taking action, and set an example for world leaders to follow.