Last October 31st until the 13th of November, over 190 countries gathered at Glasgow Scotland for the COP26 (Conference of the Parties 26) Climate Change Summit in hopes of making pledges to reduce the effects of global warming. The aim is to limit rising temperatures by 1.5°C degrees before the end of the 21st century.
The conference could be seen as a continuation of efforts from the Paris Agreement made at COP21 in 2015. At the summit presided by the UK Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma and opened by famous British natural historian Sir David Attenborough, the delegates of the participating countries gave speeches, discussed and lobbied for a climate change agreement.
This year the focus points of the summit were clear yet highly critical, to globally cut down and eventually eliminate use of fossil fuels like coal as well as the pending payment of loss and damages from developed countries and large polluters. Especially payment towards countries who are still developing whilst suffering the most from the effects of climate change despite being small polluters. Namely coastal regions like the Caribbean, East Africa and the Pacific.
Many leaders voiced their climate change concerns at the conference. Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley delivered a passionate speech on behalf of suffering coastal communities saying, “failure to provide the critical finance and that of loss and damage is measured, my friends, in lives and livelihoods in our (coastal) communities. This is immoral, and it is unjust.”
Other developing nations also spoke about their disappointment in the pledge in regards to ‘Loss and Damages’, or how their countries are the most vulnerable to extreme weather changes, floods and droughts though they pollute much less than developed nations.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo mentioned at COP26, “We, especially countries that have large green lands and have the potential to be reforested, as well as countries that have large seas that have the potential to contribute carbon, need international support and contributions from developed countries.”
President Joko Widodo further added, “The question is, how much are the contributions of developed countries to us? What technologies (and assistance) can they provide? This requires action, it needs immediate implementation. Furthermore, carbon markets and carbon price must be part of the climate change issue. We must create a transparent, inclusive and fair carbon economic ecosystem with integrity.”
Unfortunately, rich nations have not yet designed mechanisms to pay loss and damages. Perhaps this is because such payments would be seen as an admission to their larger parts in causing climate change.
Nearing the climax of the summit, delegates were approaching an agreement with an unprecedented emphasis on stopping the consumption of coal, the largest contributor to global warming. The pledge was equipped with clear and stern language, calling for the ‘phasing out’ of coal as an energy resource.
However, the agreement was suddenly watered down in the last minute by opposition from the delegations of China and India who demanded the language to be rephrased. The final pledge now only demands ‘phasing down’ coal consumption to the dismay of other the participating nations. The same countries as well as Iran, Russia, and Australia also declined signing pledges on cutting methane emissions.
National delegates, analysts from the UN, environmental corporations and scientists all insisted that phasing out coal is an essential point to combatting climate change, and that the pledge as it is will only limit rising temperatures by 2.4°C degrees instead of the objective 1.5°C degrees. In response, India and China voiced difficulties to end dirty fossil fuel consumption worldwide, though they are among the largest coal-consuming countries.
After COP26, the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), an alliance founded after COP23 in 2017 to retire fossil-fuels and coal-fired power stations, has gathered more members following the summit. Singapore, Ukraine and Poland are the newest members to join the collaborative project. However, the world’s 3 largest polluters with big coal-burning industries, the previously mentioned China and India as well as the United States, are still not present in the PPCA.
Regardless of the watered-down outcome of the COP26’s pledge, there is some hope for progress in mitigating climate change as the almost 200 countries present have agreed to meet once again next year 2022 in Egypt. This is important as otherwise the world would not gather again for a COP until 2025. At the end of the summit UK Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma acknowledged the large challenges ahead but believes the goal of achieving a 1.5°C degree limit is still within grasp.
Hope for addressing global warming could also be seen in the mass protests in Glasgow Scotland which ran simultaneous to the Climate Change Summit. Over 100 thousand people marched in Glasgow demanding more action, better leadership towards the climate crisis, and an acknowledgment of more vulnerable peoples suffering from it.
They were joined by famous young climate activist Greta Thunberg alongside other youth activists from around the world such as Nicki Becker from Argentina, Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines, and Vanessa Nakate from Uganda. Several of them were among the few climate activists who also got to meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and discuss climate change mitigation and its consequential inequalities.
As world leaders are addressing climate change through environmental commitments, the world’s youth are insisting for them to also see mitigating climate change as a necessary social justice.