Is COP26 the solution to global warming?
© Good Travel Guide, November 2021
Friday, 12 November 2021, was the last day of Cop26. The first week of COP26 ended with some optimism as the International Energy Agency said limiting warming to 1.8C was possible if countries lived up to their long-term net-zero commitments. However, during the second week, a different image emerged with the assessment of the Climate Action Tracker of the current situation. If you don’t know what Cop26 is, check out our article here.
In the first week, a few announcements were made. At least 110 countries committed to stopping and reversing deforestation by 2030 while 100 countries joined the Global Methane Pledge, deciding to cut methane emissions levels by 30% by 2030. Furthermore, 40 countries pledged to phase out coal-fired power by 2040 and 20 pledged to end public financing of coal, oil and gas overseas by the end of 2022.
At the beginning of the second week, Climate Action Tracker (CAT), the world’s most respected climate analysis coalition, reported that the existing policies and measures would lead to a temperature rise of 2.7C by the end of the century. CAT observed that countries have good long-term targets, namely reaching net-zero mostly by around 2050, but their short-term plans are inadequate. Even if all countries managed to meet their long-term targets, the global temperature would rise to 1.8C instead of remaining at 1.5C, which would cause irreversible damage to the climate.
At the end of the week, Cop26 will release a text containing decisions and resolutions made during the summit that will be legally binding for all signatories of the Paris agreement. The parties need to negotiate to reach a final text that they all approve. This could lead to a text that isn’t as strict as it needs to be.
On Wednesday, the draft of the final text was released to the public. The need for phasing out coal and fossil fuel subsidies was mentioned for the first time ever in a Cop decision. This mention is considered a positive step forward, but it might not remain in the final text. The draft also remarks the need for countries to review their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) yearly instead of every five years, as previously established. The NDCs define what each country will do to reduce national emissions. Updating NDCs yearly would help keep the 1.5C goal within reach. However, the text urges signatories to do this but doesn’t make it legally binding. Another important topic discussed is climate finance. This term refers to the financial resources developed countries provide to developing and emerging economies to assist them in mitigating and adapting to climate change. The need to mobilize beyond USD 100 billion per year is stressed, but developing countries observed that this promise has been made before and wasn’t kept.
Scientists believe that Cop26 is an improvement on previous agreements but it won’t be able to ensure global temperatures stay below 1.5C. Peter Scott, a climate scientist who has been attending Cops since 1998, observed that “It’s probably going to be almost impossible to stay below it completely. We may find a way where we briefly go above 1.5C and then come down again. But what is at stake is so enormous that even if we get close that would still be a massive prize”.
At the moment of writing, this article negotiators are still discussing the final draft of the document. Although the conference was due to finish on Friday, it seems that the final text won’t be signed-off before closing time on Sunday.