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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

Triple Bottom Tuesday >>> COP26: What Did They Actually Achieve?

Picture Credit: Markus Spiske

COP26, the United Nation’s annual climate change conference came to an end on the 12th of November after two extensive weeks of discussions. New pledges were made by world leaders, but is it all enough? Let’s unpack the key takeaways from the COP26 summit and understand how much more we need to do in order to meet the 1.5°C cut-off temperature rise to avoid catastrophic alterations to the world climate.

For the first time in 26 years, COP finally addressed the most polluting fossil fuel, coal. The discussions concluded in a pledge to “phase down” the use of coal instead of completely phasing it out. This was due to the stiff resistance put up by two of the biggest economies in the world, India and China, as they are still heavily dependent on coal-based power plants to provide energy to their cities. It looks like coal will stick around for a while.

China and the US, two of the world’s biggest rival economies have decided to work together on climate change. The agreement struck between the two nations was a welcome surprise in the Glasgow UNFCCC meeting, especially during the recent tension between the US and China over Taiwan and the Aukus agreement.

In COP26, nations were also able to finalise the rules for international carbon trading. This long-awaited set of clear-cut rules will finally bring standardisation to companies and help reduce emissions.

Tackling methane emissions was another hot topic at the COP26 summit. More than 100 countries signed a pledge to reduce methane emission levels in a powerful move of understanding the harm that other greenhouse gases can cause to the environment. The same cannot be said however for fossil fuels. It was estimated that G-20 nations spent $600 billion subsidising the fossil fuel industry last year, something John Kerry commented as being “insanity”. The COP26 conference did recognise the issue and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, but there is still yet to be any hard action taken to implement the calling.

Picture Credit: Patrick Hendry

This brings us to the serious issue of the lack of funding that developed nations have provided to fight climate change. Rich nations have failed to meet their pledge of allocating $100 billion to developing clean energy, whereas in contrast they are going about subsidising fossil fuels for more than six times that amount.

This is where the heart of the climate change issue lies, accountability. There are no immediate consequences for world leaders and governments not meeting their climate change pledges. The pledges made in COP26 or achieving the NDC’s (nationally determined contributions) agreed in the Paris Agreement are not legally binding, so there really isn’t an incentive for governments to go all out on achieving their goals.

This explains why currently we are on the trajectory to raise the average world temperature by 2.7°C. However, even if we do manage to achieve all our said pledges, our global world temperature will still rise by 1.8°C, which goes to show how much more there is yet to be done.

November 23rd 2021 | 9:15 PM

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