This article was written using reports produced by young journalists who took part in the Report for the Future climate journalism programme.
COP26 was the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference which took place at the beginning of November. Held in Glasgow, the conference set out to understand how best to reduce emissions, take steps to protect ecosystems, and generally tackle our ever-growing climate crisis.
Over the two weeks, many goals have been set and promises have been made, but how far will these countries work to help our dying planet? China is refusing to take any responsibility, opting out of committing to a 2050 net-zero carbon target, and scientists are already saying the Paris Agreement’s 2015 goal of capping the global temperature increase at 1.5°C is vastly optimistic. Knowing how unrealistic these goals sound, and how unreliable governments around the world are, it’s hard to be optimistic about these promises.
However, instead of giving my opinion on these issues, here’s a little summary of the conference’s promises for anyone who missed it.
In the first two days, the UK promised to commit to £3 billion to help developing countries in producing sustainable technologies. Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, pledged to reach net-zero by 2070. The conference kicked off Tuesday 2nd by agreeing to restrain global methane emissions by 30%. One of the methods in aid of the latter was promising an end to deforestation by 2030, with both Russia and Brazil – two countries who are massive perpetrators of deforestation – both signing the deal. £14 billion will be donated until 2025 to help restore forest land around the globe.
Day four had a focus on climate finance. Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, discussed the 2015 Paris Agreement targets of $100billion a year to help developing countries repay their debts. There was a claim that the UK has become the first net-zero aligned finance centre, and if we meet net-zero by 2050, there will be a major diversification in the job sector including more urban farmers and more engineers focussing on renewable energy. 90% of South Sudan is reliant on sectors dependent on a strong climate, like farming, and the project BRACED is working with communities to help them develop skills to allow them to become less dependent on aid, and produce long-lasting changes for themselves.
Day five began with discussions of clean energy, with 40 countries committing to phase out coal power – the biggest cause of rising global temperature. The US, China, and Japan all avoided this pledge, as did Australia which is hit by massive forest fires on a regular basis, often associated with climate change. Friday 5th focused on youth and public empowerment, aiming to elevate and educate young people around the globe. Young activists such as Greta Thunberg shared their worries about the growing crisis and expressed the importance of those in power listening to the young leaders. This day also saw the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement, led by young people in the Glaswegian streets, demanding that leaders take action. Discussions about climate education in school took place, with model curriculums being laid out.
The first week ended by discussing sustainable agriculture, with 45 countries promising to shift to sustainable farming and a £500million pledge to protect tropical rainforests and create green jobs across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Day nine saw gender inequality at the forefront of discussions, as women make up 70% of the world’s poor. Many of them work in threatened sectors like agriculture, with vulnerable positions due to flooding and droughts. Alok Sharma, Britain’s Minister of State and the President for COP26, announced a provisional £165 million towards tackling climate change and women’s inequalities. Canada pledged $5.3billion over 5 years, 80% of which is targeting gender inequality.
The intended penultimate day focused on how to aid nature’s recovery in urban areas, with the Wildlife Trusts’ ‘Wild Belt’ campaign coming into talks. Only 30 countries agreed to the 2022 Zero-Emission Vehicles Transition Council Action Plan, with many of the major offenders missing from the talks. 44 businesses signed up to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, but many speakers, rightfully, shared their disappointment with the conferences’ proceedings. The final day, which ended up taking several days to conclude, attempted to finalise the decisions of the past twelve days. Scientists stressed the importance of countries sticking to their pledges, as even if these are fully achieved, we still face a 1.9°C rise by 2050, which will be devastating to our climate. Indigenous people – some of the most affected communities on the planet – staged a walkout, stating that not enough was being done.
As you can see, many pledges were made over the fortnight’s proceedings, but we’re still hanging on by a thread. It’ll be interesting to see how many countries stand by their promises.