Updated: Feb 8
You may have heard, seen or listened to the Conference of the Parties held from 31 October – 12 November 2021 or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you ignored it out of fear of the outcome, that it might just be more Blah Blah Blah as Greta Thunberg calls it. Well, if you’re reading this now you have probably changed your mind and maybe are curious about this years’ meeting to save the earth. So, let’s take a look.
Many activists and protestors descended on Glasgow in November this year to take action and see the outcome of the conference.
What is Cop?
COP26 is a global United Nations summit about climate change and how countries are planning to attack and adapt to it. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992 at the UN Rio ‘Earth Summit. It has been approved by 196 States including the UK and the EU, which constitute the “Parties” to the Convention. The objective of the Treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human-caused interference with the climate system”. Every year a Conference of the Parties takes place (known as COPs), with this year’s meeting held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Many delegates from around the world took part in the talks.
What happened this year?
A number of dignitaries, heads of state, and conservationists attended from around the world including Prince William, Prince Charles, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Emma Watson, Vanessa Nakata, Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron to name a few. Many of these leaders made speeches about limiting the effects of climate change to 1.5 degrees. However, some of these delegates looked like they weren’t taking it too seriously at all. Joe Biden brought with him a 20-car cavalcade with the two VIP cars being called The Beast One and The Beast Two. Boris Johnson and Prince Charles flew in and out of the conference in private jets.
After getting flak from the media about this Johnson later returned to the conference via train. Some venues at the conference were not accessible for people in wheelchairs and along with this many people were affected on the front lines of climate change and activists weren’t allowed into the main conference hall. So, a bit of a hypocritical start to the conference that is potentially in place to save the planet.
Some of the leaders taking the conference very seriously.
Having said this, the show must go on, and so it did. Each day the conference focused on a different topic; finance, energy, nature, gender, transport, loss and damage, youth and public empowerment, cities; regions and built environments.
The Paris Agreement drafted in 2015 was the foundation of tackling the climate crisis and Cop26 was meant to put those plans into action. The Paris Agreement rulebook calls for countries to be transparent, be held accountable and have confidence in the system.
Some of the Pledges made at COP26 included:
· 130 countries promised to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
· 40 countries including 23 new countries have committed to phasing out coal power.
· India aims to be net-zero by 2070.
· 450 companies committed $130 trillion of private capital to transform the economy for net zero.
Some other developments put across at the conference were neither here nor there.
Vulnerable nations will be getting extra funding from developed countries for loss and damage by climate change, however, the agreements and technicalities were shifted to the agenda of COP27. Frontline activists felt they were poorly heard and 503 fossil fuel lobbyists were welcomed at the event. Nations will be checked upon their progress more frequently, going from every five years to every two years. While 40 countries have pledged to move away from coal, the biggest emitters and users of coal, being China, The USA, Australia and India did not sign the agreement.
The USA and China later made an agreement to work together over the next ten years to limit climate change; whether this will happen or it is just big talk remains to be seen. No dedicated day for agriculture or food systems. Moving towards a more plant-based diet was represented more but activists suggested it was still not enough. The draft of the fossil fuel agreement was watered down and altered to be less strict.
Was it a Success or Failure?
Scientists calculated that the agreements which have been set into place at the conference steer us in the direction of a climate that will increase between 1.8°C -2.4°C, reminding ourselves that the target was 1.5°C. Some delegates of the more vulnerable countries said that COP26 had failed their counties, while others were upset and felt that there was not enough action; lots of greenwashing and false promises. For example, Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil has signed the pledge to reserve deforestation. However, we know, and he said it himself, that he believes that the Amazon rainforest is a resource and must be used.
The face of Ecocide
As for the many scientists that have researched, campaigned and done future research into climate change and its effects, they say that COP26 has made some good progress but still not enough. Other scientists are calling for a World War 2 mentality to combat the climate crises
What does the future hold?
At this point, you may be thinking that this whole conference was a waste of time. No, it wasn’t a waste of time and I believe that some progress, no matter how small it is, is still progress. People around the world are changing, they are becoming more sustainable, standing up for what they believe in and they are keeping a more watchful eye on their leaders and holding them accountable. Putting Covid 19 and its stresses aside, many people young and old are suffering from eco-anxiety. Not knowing what to do, or how to do it, they give up or think that the efforts being made are futile. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 2020 Prince William launched an ambitious campaign called the Earth shot Prize. This was inspired by John F Kennedy’s 1961 proposal for a moonshot landing to put a man on the moon, it was a giant project and eight years later, the Americans pulled it off by putting Apollo 11 successfully on the moon and back again. The prize is the most significant global environment prize in history, designed to incentivize change and help repair our planet over the next ten years. The Prize intends to turn the current doubt surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human inventiveness to bring about change, and inspiring collective action. The prize is broken up into five categories; Nature, Air, Oceans, Waste-free and climate. The prize winners are researchers, entrepreneurs and also ordinary people going above and beyond with novel strategies and doing remarkable work to help on a local and global scale. Part of the prize is extra funding for their projects. Here is the website for more information.
Many people are doing great things around the world to tackle Climate Change. Who better to have in our corner than a future King of England.
To end off with, I read a book called The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. He depicts life on earth in a worst-case scenario of between 3°- 5°C warming and what effects it will have on us and nature. It was mentally a heavy book and was a real eye-opener. He ends the book by giving his opinion on if we have a chance to fix what we have created. He says:
"Call me crazy or better yet naive, but I think we can".