COP26 Summary – 8 Reasons for Stubborn Optimism

By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

Could more have been done? 

In this article, my COP26 Summary, I will explain why I feel that despite the obvious flaws, we are still on track to make progress. The truth is, right now, we can’t do enough, quick enough, so yes, we can always do more. But it is always easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise what could have been done, after the fact. It is something else entirely to spend the time, effort, and political collateral to make an agreement that you can stand behind and be held accountable to. Read this COP26 summary to learn more of what was done that can keep you optimistic too.

Critics say that the document as signed gets us to only 2.4 degrees. Yes, 2.4 degrees is by itself a failure: it is far above the threshold of 1.5 degrees science unanimously agrees will reduce the worst effects of global warming. While this COP may fall short, when you look at all things together; the binding and nonbinding agreements, all the programs, the business initiatives, and government promises, the number is said to be 1.8 degrees. 1.8 degrees is still too high, but it is a number we can work with. Every 0.01 degree counts.

Activists have complained about the over-representation of business interests at the table, but they must be there. Coming out of a global pandemic, our governments do not have endless resources to allocate to this problem. With business investing, participating, and thriving, they will work in concert with climate action efforts, not against it. I believe that together with business we can move much faster toward net-zero. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

In the 6 years since Paris, the private sector has taken up the cause and begun to reshape the global economy. The Paris effect has shown that smart business people, entrepreneurs, and financiers are all looking at clean technologies as the path forward to the growth of industry. The world’s businesses have shown up, now it is time for the governments of the world to do the same. I believe that’s what this COP26 summary is all about. 

The reality is that any negotiation must start with some point of common ground and this COP26 summary shows what ocurred.

COP26 Wins:

  1. A rulebook. The UK pushed hard for, and ultimately obtained, clarity for the COP21 Paris “rulebook”. This will allow future COP negotiations to proceed without wasting time by going over the same ground yet again. Accountability is critical, all parties must play by the same rules. 
  2. The US and China played nice. The USA and China openly discussed their roles in climate action going forward. This occurred at the highest levels with meetings between presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden. Before Glasgow, there were simply accusatory type comments and false promises between the two countries. Now that there is open dialog, these two massive economies can coordinate efforts and make a very big impact.
  3. A reality check. Recognition that the current agreement is not enough. After all, the first step in fixing a problem is to identify it. The parties have agreed to meet again in 2022.  Yearly check-ins are critical to maintaining momentum and ensuring targets are actually reached. It is one thing to make a “politician’s promise”, it is something else to be held accountable at the UN. 
  4. The ratchet. The ratchet is the requirement to systematically revise, increase and communicate the level of their commitments and contributions. Previously scheduled for every 5 years, it will now be every year; a much more realistic timeframe, especially when we have no time to waste.
  5. Coal was on the agenda. This might be the most important part of this COP26 summary. True, an outright ban on coal did not occur, but how could it? Billions of the world’s population rely on it for heat and energy. Do we in the North have the audacity to legislate the world’s poor to simply stop using it? It powers their homes and economies. To do so would appear punitive and set back the negotiations significantly. Now that we have it as an item on the agenda, it will happen soon. 
  6. An agreement to reduce methane emissions by 30%. This will decrease temperature rise by 0.02 – by itself! More aggressive reductions will gain momentum as annual COP check-ins take place, and will further reduce the overall climate increases. Methane reduction is the fastest and most effective way to reduce global warming. If a 30% methane reduction results in a 0.02-degree decrease, then what would a 60 or 90% decrease mean?
  7. The world’s forests protected. More than 130 Countries pledged to halt deforestation. The countries represent 85% of the world’s forests. 30 banks agreed to stop financing projects that result in deforestation. To protect forests in the Congo, a $1.1 billion fund created. These agreements will sequester carbon and protect biodiversity all over the world. 
  8. Help for the vulnerable. A renewed commitment to help vulnerable countries mitigate the effects of sea-level rise and other damage to their countries, infrastructure, and economies. In addition to the renewed commitment to 10 billion per year from COP21, 12 donor countries have pledged over $400 million in funding for the 46 least developed nations. These 46 economies have contributed the least to climate change, yet will likely feel the worst of the effects.

We collectively all must put pressure on our elected officials. We need our own ratchet. We need to increase political pressure, more than ever before. We must ensure we hold feet to the fire. We need to write emails and letters, phone constituent offices and march in the streets. We must not stop.

Maybe it’s just me, but after writing this COP26 summary, I have more hope than ever. I think we are going to make good progress in climate action in the coming months. The representatives have their marching orders, industry is ready to move forward. 

I predict big gains in the next year. 

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