COP26: Discussing the Future

Article by Amanda Doyle

Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hanging by a thread: The world is still ontrack for 2.4°C of warming despite COP26 pledges

Amanda Doyle reports from the COP26 climate change summit

I was fortunate to be able to attend COP26 for a week in person. Having never attended a COP before, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly to expect. However, I did have – perhaps naïve – expectations of an inclusive event, where representatives of different communities and countries around the world could have their say. After all, climate change affects all of us.

Unfortunately, COP26 has been called the “whitest COP ever”, with many from poorer countries unable to attend due to Covid restrictions and the prohibitive accommodation costs, and indigenous groups who made it to the summit saying their voices weren’t being heard. In addition, NGOs were only given a fraction of the normal number of observer passes, leading to concerns about the transparency of the negotiations. On top of that, lengthy queues outside the venue led to people missing events, and this was exacerbated further by notifications of the venue being full and participants advised to work remotely.

I witnessed a small number of peaceful protests outside the blue zone each day, coupled with what seemed like a disproportionately heavy police presence. I felt more of a sense of urgency from the protesters than I did inside the blue zone.

While the headline announcements often left me thinking that more needs to be done, or wondering if various pledges will be upheld, attending COP26 did give me the advantage of being able to see the many small but positive actions being taken by groups around the world, which offer a glimmer of hope for a better future.

The vast majority of 2030 actions and targets are inconsistent with net zero goals: there’s a nearly one degree gap between government current policies and their net zero goals

Heading towards 2.4°C of warming

A key feature of COP26 was that Paris Agreement signatories were required to submit new NDCs.

According to Climate Action Tracker (CAT), as of 12 November – the date the conference was scheduled to close - 124 countries have submitted new targets, 2 have proposed new targets, and 41 have not submitted new targets. Out of the 124, 12 did not increase ambition, including Australia, Brazil, and Russia.

With the IPCC warning that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events associated with human-caused climate change is going to get worse, taking action at COP26 in order to limit the damage was crucial.

Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol said that the IEA had updated its models with the new climate pledges made at COP26 and that according to the updated model the world is on track for 1.8°C of warming.

However, a few days later CAT released a report saying that current pledges would result in 2.4°C of warming by 2100, as the IEA’s assessment is based on long-term goals such as net zero targets, whereas CAT has included short-term goals to 2030.

Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, a CAT partner organisation, said: “The vast majority of 2030 actions and targets are inconsistent with net zero goals: there’s a nearly one degree gap between government current policies and their net zero goals.

“It’s all very well for leaders to claim they have a net zero target, but if they have no plans as to how to get there, and their 2030 targets are as low as so many of them are, then frankly, these net zero targets are just lip service to real climate action. Glasgow has a serious credibility gap.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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