For nearly three decades, the UN has brought together the world to discuss climate change. This year brings about the 26th annual climate change conference or COP26. It was during COP21 that the Paris Agreement was put into motion in 2015, so these conferences are pivotal for our future. What makes COP26 even more critical is that the UN had to skip the 2020 conference because of the pandemic, so there are big expectations for this one.
The Climate Conference this year is set to go for two weeks; during this first week, we’ve had a lot of pledges from country leaders, but will it be enough? The main focus of the conference has been to get the projection for the temperature increase to go under 1.5°C; at the start of the conference, the projection for 2030 was at 2.7°C. So far, multiple countries (even those that heavily rely on coal, like Poland and Vietnam) have pledged to stop funding new coal-powered factories. However, there was a deafening silence from significant countries such as the US, China, Australia, and India regarding the matter.
On a more positive note, over a hundred world leaders agreed to reverse deforestation by 2030. Furthermore, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced that the country plans to generate 50% of all electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and be net zero in all emissions by 2070. If all of the pledges that have been made get implemented, the IEA has calculated that the temperature curve will now be at 1.8°C by the end of the century. However, not everyone agrees. The special adviser to the climate action UN secretary-general, Selwin Hart, argues, “based on the nationally determined contributions that have been submitted, the world is on a 2.7°C pathway—a catastrophic pathway.”
It’s essential to keep in mind that none of these pledges mean anything until the leaders of these countries go back and implement them into climate policies. That is what this next crucial week will be about. Ministers will fly in from all over the world to debate the details of implementation; this is where we’ll truly see how much of a difference this climate conference can make for our planet.
However, I hope that the major countries such as the US, China, Australia, and India make more significant strides in the week ahead. It is often the smaller countries that do not make as much of a contribution to climate change in the first place but also have fewer resources to implement the policies and infrastructure changes that make a difference that are affected the most by climate change. The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of countries (such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and the Maldives) that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, have implored that nations reevaluate their emission pledges annually rather than the every five-year requirement currently set into place by the Paris Agreement. Hopefully, this is one of the many changes implemented in the coming week.
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Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash