Gabrielle Coleman

COP26 – What Happened, and What Do Green Initiatives Mean for You?


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Over the past two weeks, COP26 (or the 26th Conference of the Parties) has seen various world leaders private jet their way to Glasgow, Scotland.

Together, they have been discussing courses of action towards a greener and more environmentally secure future. Here’s the key events that have taken place, and how they may impact you going forwards.

Why is everyone talking about 1.5°Celsius?

Climate scientists have put a number on the amount of global warming from pre-industrial levels that will still cause severely negative impacts, but that may help to avoid some of the worst implications of climate change. The global limit of a 1.5°C increase was set out in the Paris Agreement.

The limit has been set due to the prediction that an increase of just 2°C would cause 1 billion people to endure ‘heat stress’, and would detrimentally impact livestock, ocean life, and food production.

Heat stress is currently predicted to cost the world economy £1.5 trillion by 2030.

Who spoke about what?

There were approximately 150,000 protestors outside of the venue on Saturday 6th November, demanding faster and stronger climate action. Speeches taking place within COP26 summit have received mixed reactions.

Sir David Attenborough

Attenborough stated that he fears people are “failing to see big picture in pursuit of short-term goals”. But added that, “Given the chance, nature can recover in the most remarkable ways".

Barack Obama

Obama backed the planned limit of 1.5°C. The US is the second biggest green house gas emitter after China. Perhaps directed at China, India, and Russia, Obama stated that "we can't afford anybody on the sidelines”.

Jeff Bezos

The event was criticized by many for allowing Bezos a stage following his greenhouse-guzzling space journey with Blue Origin earlier this year, and with his ongoing talks of a commercial space station. The billionaire said that “looking back at Earth from up there, [in his rocket] the atmosphere seemed so thin. The world so finite and so fragile,”. He ultimately pledged $2 Billion to the ‘Bezos Earth Fund’.

(not) Greta Thunberg

Thunberg cancelled her planned speech within the venue, instead choosing to speak at the protests outside, where she criticized leaders for what she saw as lack of action, labelling the summit a “failure”, a “PR event”, and a “2 weeklong celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah".

What’s been pledged?

Finance:

Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ), which was formed this April with a goal of transforming the economy for net zero, has pledged $130trn in assets to be deployed in investments that are committed to net zero by 2050. Countries continue to dispute who should bare the financial burden of achieving climate goals.

Methane:

‘The Global Methane Pledge’ means that key nations have agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. More than 100 countries have joined, while the top three emitters of greenhouse gas, China, Russia, and India, have not.

Coal:

Coal is the biggest single contributor to climate change. Australia, India, China, and the US have not joined the other forty countries that have agreed to shift away from using coal as their key source of energy.

The Glasgow Pact was weakened last-minute after a push from China and India, with the proposed “phase out” becoming a “phase down”. The language change has resulted in widespread negative reactions. Though Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, maintains that the conference “sounded the death knell for coal”.

Trees:

With forests providing some of the world’s largest ‘carbon sinks’, the summit addressed the ongoing destruction of biodiversity and held a specific ‘nature day’. The summit discussed how nature can help to combat some of the adverse effects of climate change. In total, 130 countries have promised to decrease, reverse, or end deforestation by 2030.

What does this mean for you?

Talks ran over past the arranged Friday 12th November end date, and into the early hours of Saturday 13th November. The summit has no doubt re-opened many questions surrounding global warming and its implications on daily life. There is an unprecedented pressure on all companies and individuals to examine their role in the climate change fight. Moving forward there will certainly be policy changes and action toward greener business models.

Expect to see initiatives and guidelines that align with the ‘net zero by 2030’ model, along with rule changes such as the ‘UK Low Carbon Transition Plan’ which will require businesses to publish their net-zero transition plan.In the short term, leaders have encouraged individuals to take less flights and eat less meat.

With topics such as nature and biodiversity being more heavily discussed than ever, the summit has been labelled a “pivot point” in climate conversation. Ultimately, Boris Johnson has said that the deal is ‘tinged with disappointment’.

Final thoughts

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