What Are the Key Issues for COP26?
Nov 07 2021
At present, heads of state, ministers and delegates from 197 nations around the world are currently convening in Glasgow for the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change. Chief among their priorities is brokering deals and setting targets that will ensure temperature increases remain below the 1.5°C threshold, which scientists believe is the only way to avoid disastrous consequences for our planet and its population.
With COP26 now fully underway, attendees will have had plenty of time to chew over the main talking points of the conference and negotiate deals for a greener tomorrow. But what are the key issues on the table? Here’s a quick rundown of the major bones of contention that will make or break the event as a success or a failure – and have a sizable subsequent impact upon the fight against climate change, too.
Although no one expects COP26 to deliver concrete and comprehensive targets for the complete phasing out of fossil fuels, they will undoubtedly occupy a central role in discussions. As the most damaging form of energy generation, coal should constitute a particular bugbear for the UK, given that it has already announced it will shut down all coal-fired plants by 2024 and wants to be seen as encouraging a similar attitude among others. Key to the conference’s success will be finding a way to make fossil fuels and green energy work hand-in-hand, with the latter replacing the former entirely in the not-too-distant future.
There was an early victory for environmentalists on Day 2 of COP26, when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a momentous agreement to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. In recent years, the world’s forested areas have been depleted at an alarming rate, with the Amazon Rainforest in South America a particular cause for concern. Crucially, Brazil’s conservative premier Jair Bolsonaro, who has overseen much of the destruction of the Brazilian part of the Amazon, is one of the signatories to the deal, sparking hope that it can make a real impact going forwards.
Despite the fact that many of the world’s poorest nations have done very little to contribute to the issue of climate change, it is they who are likely to suffer its most immediate and most harmful consequences. Conversely, much of the developed world has forged its fortunes by mining, processing, selling and combusting fossil fuels, all of which has landed us in the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. As a result, the Paris summit saw richer nations agree to provide at least $100 billion per year to the developing world in order to aid the transition to green practices, though they fell short of that 2020 target. COP26 will be crucial in securing another agreement which parties cannot renege on.
Alongside technological solutions such as the use of carbon capture and storage equipment, one of the more controversial proposals to solving the climate crisis is the implementation of a carbon market. This would allow those countries who exceed their own targets and obligations to “sell” carbon credits to other, more polluting nations, thus offsetting the emissions in their home territory. However, the proposed scheme has been plagued by criticisms, especially since it’s entirely unclear that both countries will not try to claim the gains as their own, thus upsetting the overall data. Hammering out a viable framework for the market to work is another major issue on the agenda at COP26.
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