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29th November 2021

COP26: Still not green enough?

A run-down of the Glasgow summit
COP26: Still not green enough?
Photo: Number 10 @ Flickr

COP26 took place in Glasgow over the last few weeks and, in partnership with Italy, reunited more than 120 world leaders and around 25,000 total participants. It is one of the most important summits in terms of the environment, and one which many world leaders were relying on to decide which environmental and sustainable policies to adopt. 

The aim of COP26 was for world leaders to set goals to try and address the climate emergency the world is facing today. To capture this sentiment, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recalled, “our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe”.

So what was actually achieved in order to address this pact?

On Friday the 12th November, after laborious negotiations, the UK Government presented the last draft of the international agreement, which became the ‘Glasgow Pact’. The ‘Glasgow Pact’ includes several measures which all aim to help countries on their journey to ‘Net Zero’, and limit global warming to the 1.5°C boundary which had been fixed by the 2015 Paris Agreement. The UK has agreed to end deforestation by 2030, reach the net-zero target by 2050, quit coal as soon as possible, and cut methane emissions (a potent greenhouse gas) by 30 percent by 2030.

The pact also includes a series of climate pledges concerning transport, finance, and technology, as well as deforestation, farming, and coal and fossil energies. More than 40 countries, including 23 new ones, have pledged to phase out coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. Members include heavy coal users like Poland, Ukraine and Vietnam.

To reduce deforestation, more than 130 countries have agreed to halt and reverse land over-exploitation by 2030. This includes Brazil, which is home to more than 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest.  

More than thirty countries, numerous states and cities, and several automotive companies have established a pact on zero-emission cars and vans, and agreed that these would be the only type of transports sold in leading markets by 2035, and globally by 2040.

The 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21) had been one of the most successful consensual decisions taken by world politicians in terms of climate change. However, the goals set by COP21 and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are challenging to reach, so Glasgow’s conference aimed to address some of the difficulties countries may face on their journey to reach these targets.

Despite all these agreements, the COP26 has been judged as being “deceiving“, and has been criticised for not setting the environmental standards high enough considering the climate emergency the planet is facing.

The most contested decision has been the incapacity of world leaders to stand against India and China, and stop them from negotiating and easing the measures taken concerning the fossil fuel lobby. Certainly, despite pledges made by COP26 leaders to “phase out” coal power lobbying, India has managed to negotiate “phasing down” instead, which has been heavily criticised. John Vidal, the former The Guardian Environment Editor, stated, “any chance of halving fast-rising emissions by 2030 – the declared aim of the talks – is now negligible”.

But what does our young generation think? Not much, according to young climate change protesters. Indeed, protesters of the ‘Fridays For Future’ march declared that they were “angry and disappointed”. According to Greta Thunberg, leader of these marches, “COP26 is a failure”. For her, “immediate and drastic” measures and cuts to emissions are necessary if countries want to see a change in the environmental crisis they are facing.

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