The World is Watching: Let's talk about COP26
Many would say COP26 was the conference of the decade. But what exactly is it? What happened and what happens now?
Well, we did some research, let's talk about COP26
From the 31st of October until the 12th of November, the United Kingdom, in partnership with Italy, hosted COP26.
The event that they believed to be:"The best last chance to get runaway climate change under control."
But what is it?
For almost three decades, the United Nations has been bringing together as many countries as possible for global climate summits. These are called COPs, which stands for: "Conference Of the Parties."
More than 190 world leaders plus tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens met in Glasgow for 12 days of talks. Some called COP26 the summit of the decade, but was it?
COP 26 Goals
On the run-up to COP26, the UN released what the goals of this conference would be, and here they are:
1. Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
The climate is already changing and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects. At COP26 organisations and countries had to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:
-Protect and restore ecosystems build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture.
-To avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
3. Mobilise finance
To deliver on the first two goals, developed countries had to make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
International financial institutions must play their part as we need to work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
4. Work together to deliver
We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together. At COP26 countries had to:
-Finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
-Accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.
But what is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement was agreed upon at COP21 in 2015. For the first time ever, it saw almost every country around the world enter into a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions.
It was ‘top down’ in that every country – no matter how big or small – signed up to cutting carbon emissions to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and ideally to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and it was ‘bottom up’ in that it left room for each individual country to decide how they would get there. These were called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
The Paris Agreement also set out ambitious goals on adaptation and on finance, recognising that many people around the world are already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate and that support - financial, technical and capacity building - would be needed.
So, what actually happened?
COP26 was a potentially pivotal moment in global efforts to combat the threat of climate change.
Here are the highlights from COP26:
• The Glasgow Climate Pact
The main political outcome of COP26 – requests governments to revisit and strengthen their NDCs before the end of 2022 to bring these in line with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal. Governments must return to the table with significantly enhanced offers ahead of COP27 to keep 1.5°C within reach.
• Governments fell short with raising the ambition of national emission reduction targets (NDCs), which was a critical task for COP26.
Even though over 120 parties submitted new or updated NDCs, these new targets only narrow the gap to 1.5°C by 15–17 per cent and are, if fully implemented, projected to result in warming of 2.4°C by the end of the century. And we can certainly question if these are being fully implemented.
• COP26 marks the first time ever reducing fossil fuels is mentioned in a COP decision.
One of the Glasgow Climate pact key features is its emphasis on" accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies."
• Climate finance, adaptation, loss and damage
These discussions were centre stage in Glasgow and also critical points of contention.
Although the Glasgow Climate Pact urges developed countries to 'fully' deliver on the $100 billion annual climate finance pledge through to 2025. It still remains unclear when this sum will actually be raised in full – and if a total of $500 billion will be mobilised between 2020 and 2025 to make up for initial shortfalls. And while the Pact urges developed countries to double their adaptation finance by 2025. As well as, establishes a dialogue on loss and damage finance, much more will need to be done to address the needs of climate-vulnerable developing countries.
So the question is, why this quantity and will it be enough?
•Monitoring implementation and holding governments and institutions to account will be critical.
At COP26 we saw deals on key issues such as phasing out various forms of fossil fuels and ending deforestation. These initiatives can accelerate decarbonisation, however future COPs provide a platform for doing this. Governments should seek to incorporate the pledges made outside the formal remits of the UNFCCC process in their NDCs.
COP26: There was progress but will it be enough?
The next 12 months will be crucial in determining if the formal agreements reached in Glasgow provide grounds for optimism that 1.5°C remains firmly in sight. Hopefully this will be sufficient to build trust between countries and between citizens and governments.
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