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Good COP or bad COP?

The last two weeks have been busy for politicians and activists alike as world leaders converged in Glasgow to discuss collective action needed to solve the climate crisis. The 26th of such summits, the pressure was on for leaders to replace rhetoric with action and share definitive steps to tackle global warming and protect the Earth’s resources. With scientists’ warnings ringing in their ears the atmosphere at the start suggested positive change was coming but, almost two weeks on, what was achieved, and how successful has this summit really been?

Let’s look at the four aims for COP 26 and see how much the dial has really moved. 

GOAL ONE: Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach

Countries have been asked to set ambitious targets that will help align with a net zero target by 2050. This would include:

Net Zero targets 
Throughout the last two weeks we have seen countries commit to net zero targets- most noticeably India who committed to their first ever net zero target. However, India’s target is to reach net zero by 2070 and not the 2050 goal. Many critics have voiced their disappointment that India as the fourth largest CO2 emitter has not set a more ambitious target.

Phase out of coal
Negotiations of the COP 26 deal are still ongoing, and a significant sticking point has been the phase out of coal. Indeed, the current draft agreement has watered down the targets surrounding fossil fuels. However, a new alliance committing countries to setting a date to end oil and gas use and exploration has been viewed positively- though the UK has not committed to this alliance. 

Curtail deforestation 
One landmark deal that has been agreed at COP 26 has been the agreement to halt and reverse global deforestation in the next decade. For more information on this agreement, click here. While the move to end deforestation has been welcomed, the proof will be in the pudding as critics have recalled similar past deals that have failed to have an impact. 

Accelerate the switch to electric vehicles
On Transport day at COP 26 a new declaration was signed by more than 30 countries and dozens of businesses- those that manufacture vehicles and operate fleets- promising that all vehicle sales will be zero emissions by 2035 in leading markets, with a 2040 deadline for all other markets. While a landmark deal, it was not signed by China, the US or Germany- the world’s largest car markets. However, businesses, cities and regions in these countries have signed up to the deal. 

Encourage investment in renewables
There has been a significant number of new initiatives and agreements when it comes to renewable energy. A few of the most important include what has been dubbed the ‘Glasgow Breakthrough’, an international plan to deliver clean and affordable technology everywhere by 2030. Over 40 world leaders have backed and signed up to the Breakthrough agenda- representing more than 70% of the world’s economy. 

GOAL TWO: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

This goal looks at countries affected by climate change and encouraging them to:

Protect and restore eco-systems
The deal to stop deforestation and reverse it by 2030 is a game-changer in terms of protecting eco-systems like the Amazon Rainforest. The deal includes £1.5bn funding from the UK government for forests- £350m of this will go to Indonesia, £200m to the Congo Basin and £1.1bn for the west African rainforest. 
In addition, in an effort to protect our ocean, a coalition of 19 countries including the UK and the US have agreed to create zero emissions shipping trade routes between ports. In what has been called the ‘Clydebank Declaration’ the signatories have agreed to establish at least six green corridors by 2025. The UK has also made commitments to contribute £6m to PROBLUE, a world bank fund that supports sustainable ocean projects and £1m to the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, This is on top of £5m announced earlier this year. However, activists have called on governments not to side-line fishery issues which have not yet been addressed.  

Build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid the loss of homes, livelihoods and lives
The UK has pledged £290m to help developing countries cope with the impact of climate change, however, there has been widespread criticism from countries vulnerable to climate change saying that rich nations have pushed back against their attempts to secure compensation for the damage caused by climate change. While the Paris Agreement in 2015 addressed the issue, there was no confirmation on who should pay for it- and now at this COP commitments also appear to be lacking.

GOAL THREE: Mobilise finance

Developed countries have previously promised to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020. International financial institutions are also required to play their part.

One of the biggest successes of COP 26 so far has been the commitment from hundreds of the world’s biggest banks and pension funds to limit greenhouse gas emissions. These institutions represent $1.5trn in assets. 

To find out more about the deals agreed including where countries plan to mobilise finance, you can read our daily updates from each day at COP 26 here.  

GOAL FOUR: Work together to deliver

A key part of COP 26 is working collaboratively to deliver commitments that put the world on track to limit warming by 1.5C. 

The COP 26 deal expected to be finalised by the end of the conference is a result of the commitment to many countries to work collaboratively and deliver real solutions to the issue of climate change. We’ve seen significant commitments relating to the reduction of methane, reversing deforestation and tackling the gendered impact of climate change. 

However, there have also been disappointments with some world leaders failing to attend the summit, and major nations missing from certain agreements. 

Some good news has resulted following these announcements. At the beginning of the conference the Climate Action Tracker published stark warnings that the world was heading towards a 2.4C warming due to ‘stalled momentum’ from governments. However, more recently data has shown the possibility of improvement. The key pledges from COP 26 could, according to the Climate Action Tracker move the world 9% closer to a pathway that keeps heating to 1.5C. 

As always, the true test of the success of the summit, and the ability for nations to work collaboratively was not this week, but the coming weeks, months and years as we all work together to combat the effects of climate change.  Time only will tell whether this COP was really “good or bad”.