What is COP26 and what has happened so far?

Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Like many people, I’ve been waiting for the 26th UN climate change summit (COP26) for a long time. Some may know that climate change is a passion of mine and I would consider myself somewhat an environmentalist. ♻️

Now I'm not saying I'm a climate activist who is super gluing my face to the M25. But an environmentalist who is doing their part in moving towards a zero carbon future. I am a COP26 champion for my company who are a principal partner for the event (National Grid). So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on COP26 so far… 🛣

Admitted it wan't his smartest of ideas in he's ever had...

My best friend sounded baffled when I said 'COP' on the phone to him yesterday… and debating whether to hit my head off a wall, wonder how he avoids all news, or feel guilty for not mentioning it more in the group chat… I’ll give a quick mention of what it is:

World leaders from over 200 countries have met in Glasgow with a focus on collaboration towards reducing global emissions over the next decade and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

‘Under 1.5C’. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard this phrase no end of times. This is the amount countries agreed to keep global warming temperatures under when compared to pre-industrial times back in 2015. Currently, we are at 1.1C so if we, as a planet, don’t act now this target will be breached with catastrophic repercussions. ⛈

You may have heard some stories of COP26 so far which haven’t looked too great and more mildly embarrassing than successful (no thanks to the media…):

President Joe Biden falling asleep – Sleepy Joe… I mean we’ll blame it on the jetlag! 💤

Boris Johnson unfortunately snapped looking like he was asleep whilst sitting next to Sir David Attenborough – No mask and next to our national treasure who needs protecting at all costs! 😷

French President Macron calling out the Australian Prime Minister for being a liar... arguing over submarines or something… ⛵️

Both China and Russia not turning up – 2 of the big players in the battle against climate change. China causes 28% of global emissions and Russia supplies gas to most of the world (gas which contributes to climate change). ✋🏽

Israeli Energy Minister had to go home after 2 hours of waiting outside due to no wheelchair access into the event – extremely embarrassing moment. Watching Boris Johnson make amends was pretty torrid viewing. 👩🏽‍🦽

However, after 3 days of talks there have been some huge steps in the right direction regarding how we, as a planet will move towards a zero-carbon future and reverse the worst effects of climate change:

Deforestation and restoration

Over 100 world leaders have promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Fund’s totalling £14 billion have been set aside to help achieve this goal and includes countries such as Brazil (who host the Amazon rainforest) and Russia (who have 20% of the worlds trees)! 🌴

Why is this good?

If you paid attention in GCSE Science, then you know that trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Trees are literally the lungs of the earth. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Not only that, by absorbing carbon dioxide, it means this isn’t being emitted into the atmosphere and warming the planet! So, hug them trees!

Methane reduction pledge

In case you aren’t aware, it isn’t just carbon dioxide which is harmful to the planet. There are other greenhouse gases which unfortunately, are more potent and thus are more harmful to the planet.

Methane does last in the atmosphere as long but is a a hell of a lot more potent

Methane is responsible for a third of the global warming from human activities. You may have heard of cow farts! Yes, that’s right. Cow farts and that’s a big reason why having a vegetarian diet helps fight climate change. Get to love that Quorn like Mo Farah!

Other things such as fracking (you may have heard that term) and how we produce are energy such as electricity (we want to move to renewables to stop this). ⛽️

Why is this good?

The pledge aims to reduce methane by 30% and more than 100 countries, which make up almost half of global methane emissions, have signed the pledge. Scientists predict that by doing this the world can avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040.

India announced a net zero target

In a quick summary, poorer countries often feel the effects of climate change more so than say us (in Britain), partly because of where they are geographically (extreme weather zones) and also because they do not have the money to invest in living with the effects (think air conditioning or flood defences).

Often poorer countries say ‘well why should we pay for expensive technologies which we can’t afford’ when we could use cheaper (but more harmful alternatives) such as coal and gas which emit greenhouse gases. 🇮🇳

India did commit to net zero by 2070 which is 20 years later than the global 2050 target. But with more aggressive decarbonisation goals for 2030, it’s a step in the right direction.

Why is this good?

India with its 1.4 billion people and being the third largest greenhouse gas emitter (country) in the world, having commitment from them and urgency to act is a great start. With so many people and the standard of living increasing in India, its population are demanding more goods (cars, houses, electronics). More stuff means bigger carbon footprints. Renewable energy will play a massive part in India’s success to net zero.

EU not being classed as a single emitter here

Money to fund Net Zero

Back in 2015 the Paris agreement saw rich countries pledge to deliver $100 million to poor countries by 2020 to help fund zero carbon transitions such as renewable energy. But shock. This never happened and we fell short.

However so far, many countries such as the UK and Japan have pledged more money and reach the $100bn target by 2023. Banks and pension funds have committed to net zero goals (invest in companies who are net zero for example).

Jeff Bezos has said he will offer a further $2 billion toward restoring nature and improving food systems. Through the Bezos Earth Fund, a total $10 billion will be used to fight climate change and restore land. 💰

Why is this good?

Because money makes the world go round. Quite literally. To save the planet and have it keep spinning (with us on it) we need to invest huge amounts of money in activities which will help prevent further warming of the planet.

But with poorer countries not being able to afford these much-needed investments, richer countries (who tend to be more responsible for emitting harmful gases) must assist and foot the bill for the rest of the world. Helping countries produce clean energy will assist in helping raise them out of poverty (think if everyone had access to electricity to heat/cool homes or cook food).

Clean energy in South Africa

The large amount of coal used by South Africa to generate its electricity makes it the 12th biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the world. Thick smog in the air causes many health problems for locals but due to cost, South Africa has to get its power by using coal (80% of generation from using this fossil fuel).

South Africa with get £6 billion to move to clean energy rather than coal, from a deal with France, Germany, the UK, the US and the EU. 🇿🇦

Why is this good?

Other than reducing a lot of carbon from heating up the planet, it’s a great showcase of richer countries funding investments in less developed countries. Showing co-operation and a willingness to tackle climate change as a collective of nations. Rather than just focus on just worrying about ourselves.

Also, it will provide new jobs for the south African people, more reliable energy which can help contribute to bringing many of its population out of poverty.

So COP26 has made interesting viewing so far. Whether it be BoJo and Biden having a nap, shedding a tear as Sir David Attenborough’s passionate opening speech or seeing Nation’s Prime Minister’s beef it out and throw shade. 💤

Nevertheless, with the hope of many more commitments to be made and trust to be built between world leaders, I am cautiously optimistic of what’s to come in the next few days. To put us on a path to fighting climate change as one planet, not at individual nations. To keep global temperatures down. To save lives. To save wildlife. To save our futures. 🌎


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Alex Dean

Alex Dean