COP26 - What's the Outcome?
Nov 11 2021
Many quarters of the media had been billing COP26 as the most significant climate conference for years and the last chance for humanity to put in place concrete measures to limit global temperature rises to a maximum of 1.5°C. With so much hype leading up to the event and so much pressure riding on its outcome, there was always likely to be contention and controversy at its conclusion.
Now that this conclusion is in sight, what is the verdict on COP26? Do the proposals put forward and the agreements penned go far enough in reining in our polluting habits and protecting the environment? And can the conference be called a success, or is it a missed chance? Here are the pros and cons of this year’s climate summit in a nutshell.
- Coal. As the single biggest contributing factor to climate change, coal is not only responsible for poor air quality and global warming, but has even been linked to extreme rainfall events in the recent past. The fact that over 40 countries pledged to cut investment into new coal projects immediately – and phase out its use entirely over the short- to medium-term – is a huge win for COP26.
- Deforestation. Given that trees serve to absorb carbon and act as the lungs of our plant, stopping their cull was a key goal of the conference. Thankfully, more than 100 world leaders (including chief culprits Brazil, in whose territory much of the Amazon Rainforest lies) signed up to a promise to stop deforestation by 2030. Almost £14 billion was set aside to achieve that goal.
- Methane. Led by the USA and the EU, more than 100 nations signed up to a target of reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Since methane is the second most damaging greenhouse gas behind carbon – and can actually be up to 82 times more potent in the short term – that’s excellent news for the environment.
- Big polluters. The conference got off to a bad start when it was revealed that major polluting nations like China, Brazil and Russia would not even be represented by their heads of state at COP26. That disappointment became entrenched when all three refused to introduce targets on reducing methane and China, India and the USA did not sign up to the coal phaseout agreement.
- Climate finance. Since developed countries earned much of their wealth and gained much of their power by burning fossil fuels, it seems unfair in the extreme that developing nations are the ones most likely to be impacted by their actions. As such, a 2009 promise to deliver $100 billion per year to poorer nations to put in place mitigation measures, transition to clean technology and pay for climate change damages was hailed at the time – but it has still not been met or addressed.
- Pledges falling short. Despite the considerable body of evidence for weather impacts and climate change caused by manmade activity, the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) decided upon at the Paris climate summit in 2015 did not go anywhere near far enough to have the desired effect. In fact, experts estimate that following our current course of action (even with improvements announced at COP26) would lead to a 2.4°C increase in global temperatures, which would spell disaster for low-lying island nations and coastal areas.
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