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OP26 finished last weekend (November 13) after negotiations on a final pact carried over into the early hours of Saturday morning. The climate conference brought together world leaders, negotiators, government representatives, businesses, and activists for what many experts have called the world’s best last chance to tackle climate change. The conference was highlighted by several headline grabbing commitments which have been widely discussed. Yet while there are real reasons to feel hopeful about some advances during COP26, there remain serious concerns about gaps in national strategies and potential weaknesses of many of the commitments that made such big splashes.  

Here, Diplomatic Courier goes beyond the hype and headlines to help demystify the likely and potential impacts of some of the biggest COP26 announcements.

More than 100 countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

Photo by Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash.

Countries signing on to this commitment include Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, and Russia, which together cover 85% of the world’s forests. However, halting deforestation requires compromises that even signatories will likely resist. The world’s demand for food drives deforestation as we clear land for crops and livestock. Deforestation brings in private and public flows of money, making it difficult to slow because of the economic impact. Additionally, prior efforts to protect forests such as the New York Declaration on Forests have failed or struggled.

While this pledge demonstrates an increasing awareness of nature’s role in combatting climate change, the agreement is not binding, and forests are currently worth more economically dead than alive.

India pledged net-zero emissions by 2070.

Mumbai, India. Photo by Atharva Tulsi via Unsplash.

India, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, needs a strategic roadmap to achieve this pledge. India’s growth trajectory means increasing energy demands, most of which rely on fossil fuels. Power redistribution reforms must occur so that people working in fossil fuel reliant sectors can still work, or the country could face economic shocks and extreme pushback from its working classes. Even if India can meet this target, achieving net-zero emissions in 2070—twenty years after the desired year of 2050— could be far too late for the planet to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate. Nonetheless, experts welcome the pledge after years of resistance.

Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero pledges $130 trillion dollars to fund energy transition.

Beira clothing industry waste columns in the SEC at COP26 in Glasgow. Photo by Karwai Tang/ UK Government.

Private financial institutions including some of the world’s biggest banks, insurers, and asset managers form the alliance, which has been widely praised for its pledge to help fund the global energy transition. The headline numbers are misleading, however, as the $130 trillion refers to the net worth of GFANZ members, rather than the actual amount they’ve pledged. How, where, when, and even how much of this money will be spent on the energy transition remains unclear. Some critics are concerned the companies could simply be “greenwashing”—making big but misleading commitments to bolster their public image. Additionally, more than 90 climate groups criticize such companies’ investment in fossil fuel projects. Ultimately, investment and funding in the energy transition remain crucial, but they can only produce tangible effects once a comprehensive plan emerges and when finance for fossil fuels decreases.

105 countries pledged to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030.

Photo by Ilse Driessen via Unsplash.

Methane is the easiest thing to cut and gives much more rapid benefits than CO2 cuts. Methane leaves the air more quickly than CO2 so stopping those emissions will more rapidly have a "cooling" effect, which effectively gives the world more time to tackle other sources of greenhouse gases. However, major methane emitters such as China, Russia, and India did not commit to this pledge. Additionally, there are a lot of rogue methane emissions—those that aren't known and thus not tracked or accounted for. Private companies and governments are working together on satellite detection programs, but new discoveries of methane leaks continue to arise in unsuspected places. Furthermore, some [1] actors like Russia have massive methane leaky infrastructure networks that they are reticent to address.

130 well-known fashion companies pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash.

The fashion industry produces 8-10% of global carbon emissions. Global clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2015, as disposable consumption patterns drive companies to make as much clothing as possible, as inexpensively as possible. Clothing companies often migrate through factories looking for those who offer the lowest production costs—most of which use coal and carbon-intensive measures to provide cheap power. The technology exists to make fashion net-zero, but the expense deters many of these companies reliant on cheapness, regardless of pledges.

The U.S. and China agreed to cooperate on climate action.

Shanghai, China. Photo via Unsplash.

While this agreement shows effort between the US and China, it is vague on how the countries will work together. US President Joe Biden virtually met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 15 to discuss issues related to their tense relationship, including their recent climate agreement. The meeting offered no breakthroughs. However,  their engagement on climate could eventually improve diplomatic relations, which could produce breakthroughs in the future.[2] 

The Glasgow Climate Pact

Launch of the global declaration on the transition to zero emission vehicles at Cop26 on the 10th November 2021 at the SEC, Glasgow. Photo by Justin Goff/UK Government.

The Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted as a final agreement at COP26, involved unprecedented language on fossil fuels, but it also watered down ambitions towards phasing out coal, the dirtiest form of energy. As a disappointment to many, China and India demanded the phrase “phase out” coal to be changed to “phase down.” This brings China and India, which together burn roughly two-thirds of the world’s coal, into the agreement, but it makes benchmarks less clear and hurts the potential for immediate action. Additionally, global coal consumption continues to increase this year due to energy shortages, and countries might just shift to natural gas, which still emits greenhouse gases.

The Glasgow Climate Pact and COP26 advanced the fight against climate change; however, they were ultimately just a starting gun to a long race ahead.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Looking Beyond COP26 Headline Hype and Hysteria

The Eden Project installation on the concourse of the SEC. Photo by Doug Peters/ UK Government.

November 20, 2021

A week after COP26 wrapped up, news and industry outlets are still discussing the implications of some of the more spotlight-grabbing announcements and commitments to arise from the climate summit. We look beyond the headlines to see what each commitment really means.

C

OP26 finished last weekend (November 13) after negotiations on a final pact carried over into the early hours of Saturday morning. The climate conference brought together world leaders, negotiators, government representatives, businesses, and activists for what many experts have called the world’s best last chance to tackle climate change. The conference was highlighted by several headline grabbing commitments which have been widely discussed. Yet while there are real reasons to feel hopeful about some advances during COP26, there remain serious concerns about gaps in national strategies and potential weaknesses of many of the commitments that made such big splashes.  

Here, Diplomatic Courier goes beyond the hype and headlines to help demystify the likely and potential impacts of some of the biggest COP26 announcements.

More than 100 countries pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

Photo by Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash.

Countries signing on to this commitment include Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, and Russia, which together cover 85% of the world’s forests. However, halting deforestation requires compromises that even signatories will likely resist. The world’s demand for food drives deforestation as we clear land for crops and livestock. Deforestation brings in private and public flows of money, making it difficult to slow because of the economic impact. Additionally, prior efforts to protect forests such as the New York Declaration on Forests have failed or struggled.

While this pledge demonstrates an increasing awareness of nature’s role in combatting climate change, the agreement is not binding, and forests are currently worth more economically dead than alive.

India pledged net-zero emissions by 2070.

Mumbai, India. Photo by Atharva Tulsi via Unsplash.

India, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, needs a strategic roadmap to achieve this pledge. India’s growth trajectory means increasing energy demands, most of which rely on fossil fuels. Power redistribution reforms must occur so that people working in fossil fuel reliant sectors can still work, or the country could face economic shocks and extreme pushback from its working classes. Even if India can meet this target, achieving net-zero emissions in 2070—twenty years after the desired year of 2050— could be far too late for the planet to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate. Nonetheless, experts welcome the pledge after years of resistance.

Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero pledges $130 trillion dollars to fund energy transition.

Beira clothing industry waste columns in the SEC at COP26 in Glasgow. Photo by Karwai Tang/ UK Government.

Private financial institutions including some of the world’s biggest banks, insurers, and asset managers form the alliance, which has been widely praised for its pledge to help fund the global energy transition. The headline numbers are misleading, however, as the $130 trillion refers to the net worth of GFANZ members, rather than the actual amount they’ve pledged. How, where, when, and even how much of this money will be spent on the energy transition remains unclear. Some critics are concerned the companies could simply be “greenwashing”—making big but misleading commitments to bolster their public image. Additionally, more than 90 climate groups criticize such companies’ investment in fossil fuel projects. Ultimately, investment and funding in the energy transition remain crucial, but they can only produce tangible effects once a comprehensive plan emerges and when finance for fossil fuels decreases.

105 countries pledged to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030.

Photo by Ilse Driessen via Unsplash.

Methane is the easiest thing to cut and gives much more rapid benefits than CO2 cuts. Methane leaves the air more quickly than CO2 so stopping those emissions will more rapidly have a "cooling" effect, which effectively gives the world more time to tackle other sources of greenhouse gases. However, major methane emitters such as China, Russia, and India did not commit to this pledge. Additionally, there are a lot of rogue methane emissions—those that aren't known and thus not tracked or accounted for. Private companies and governments are working together on satellite detection programs, but new discoveries of methane leaks continue to arise in unsuspected places. Furthermore, some [1] actors like Russia have massive methane leaky infrastructure networks that they are reticent to address.

130 well-known fashion companies pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash.

The fashion industry produces 8-10% of global carbon emissions. Global clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2015, as disposable consumption patterns drive companies to make as much clothing as possible, as inexpensively as possible. Clothing companies often migrate through factories looking for those who offer the lowest production costs—most of which use coal and carbon-intensive measures to provide cheap power. The technology exists to make fashion net-zero, but the expense deters many of these companies reliant on cheapness, regardless of pledges.

The U.S. and China agreed to cooperate on climate action.

Shanghai, China. Photo via Unsplash.

While this agreement shows effort between the US and China, it is vague on how the countries will work together. US President Joe Biden virtually met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 15 to discuss issues related to their tense relationship, including their recent climate agreement. The meeting offered no breakthroughs. However,  their engagement on climate could eventually improve diplomatic relations, which could produce breakthroughs in the future.[2] 

The Glasgow Climate Pact

Launch of the global declaration on the transition to zero emission vehicles at Cop26 on the 10th November 2021 at the SEC, Glasgow. Photo by Justin Goff/UK Government.

The Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted as a final agreement at COP26, involved unprecedented language on fossil fuels, but it also watered down ambitions towards phasing out coal, the dirtiest form of energy. As a disappointment to many, China and India demanded the phrase “phase out” coal to be changed to “phase down.” This brings China and India, which together burn roughly two-thirds of the world’s coal, into the agreement, but it makes benchmarks less clear and hurts the potential for immediate action. Additionally, global coal consumption continues to increase this year due to energy shortages, and countries might just shift to natural gas, which still emits greenhouse gases.

The Glasgow Climate Pact and COP26 advanced the fight against climate change; however, they were ultimately just a starting gun to a long race ahead.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.