COP26: A Week in Review

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Day 1: On the Same Page

The opening ceremony of COP26 commenced with a film screening of “Earth to COP; Action This Day” and was followed by statements from world leaders. Boris Johnson opened the ceremony with bold statements such as “humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change” and “It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now.”

This was supported by US president Joe Biden who stated that “none of us can escape the worst of what’s yet to come if we fail to seize this moment.” Canadian Premiere Justin Trudeau was amongst the many world leaders who pressed on the importance of a united approach to climate action. “Tackling the climate crisis will take all of us. Together, the global community needs to accelerate new and bold approaches to fighting climate change and building cleaner economies.”

The opening statements of all national leaders seemed to address the key concerns of experts and environmentalists. As a result, the first day of COP provided not only a promising sense of understanding and commitment from key players but a recognition of the growing need to act fast.

Day 2: A Promise to the Forests

The first major deal made by world leaders was a bold stance on deforestation. Over 100 world leaders promised to end deforestation and reverse its effects on the environment by 2030. In a promising turn, one of the signatories of this deal was Brazil, where deforestation has caused the loss of roughly 20% of the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon.

The pledge includes almost £14 billion in public and private funds, with the UK government providing £1.5 billion to the initiative. Funds will be given to developing nations to help support projects that help restore degraded land.

Experts have welcomed the commitment as a “landmark moment” for nature and the environment and are optimistic about its implications.

Day 3: Methane Mitigation

Wednesday saw bold and unprecedented actions taken against methane. Over 90 nations committed to cutting methane emissions 30% by 2030 (off a 2020 baseline). Led by the US, this pledge covers two-thirds of the world’s economy. Methane reductions specifically will drastically impact the global environment as it is a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

However, perhaps the most positive news to be announced on Wednesday was that several climate models had for the first time predicted that the world has the potential of restraining global heating to less than 2˚C. This was a direct result of the ambitious pledges made in the first few days of the conference.

Days 4 and 5: Coalition on Coal

The momentum of the conference continued at a pace. On Thursday, over 40 countries promised to end the use of coal-fired power between 2030 and 2040. The most notable signatory of this deal was Poland, which has historically been particularly ardent on the use of coal. Even nations that have not signed this particular pledge, such as China, have made statements to the UN promising to drastically cut down on the use of coal by 2030. This represented an extremely promising shift in the global attitudes regarding fossil fuels and the transition to clean energy.

The week concluded on a positive note, with most nations feeling optimistic that real breakthroughs had been made. Perhaps one of the biggest indications of progress has been the acknowledgment by world leaders regarding the gap between the ambitious long-term promises and the actual short-term actions being taken. The widespread acknowledgment and address of this concern are striking and a welcome indication of the direction of global attitudes.

The Week to Come

The first week of COP created a very positive trajectory for the conference and climate action in general. Thus far, the conference has made bold and unprecedented pledges regarding crucial environmental issues. While week one was focused on high-level commitments, week two will dive into technical details and political negotiations surrounding required outcomes. Key topics to be discussed include climate credit trading systems, discussions around loss and damage to the environment thus far, and, perhaps most critically, climate finance.

NUS will be monitoring updates and outcomes on a daily basis. Keep an eye out for our upcoming articles covering the commitments made by Canada and the United States.

More: Research Notes, Coal, COP26, Decarbonization, Net-Zero, Sustainability

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Zeba Zaidi