Good COP, bad COP? What to make of the Glasgow climate summit

The COP26 circus has actually left Glasgow. Was it all just a load of blah, blah, blah, or existed genuine indications of progress? Martin Wright unpicks occasions

Now the circus has left, was it a bad police or a good police officer– or somewhere in between?

Similarly unforeseen was the deal on suppressing methane emissions– a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, formerly unaddressed at COPs past. Then there was the contract between the United States and China (locked in superpower rivalry over trade, Taiwan and human rights in the run-up to COP26), to work closely together in pursuit of a 1.5 C limit. Valuable little substance in there, undoubtedly, but evidence that rivals can put aside distinctions to work together on the environment.

COP26 saw a host of statements and alliances that cant just be composed off as greenwash.

Its far from best– some of its members still have a lot of exposure to fossil fuels. And that might yet drive development much faster than the sluggish wheels of worldwide diplomacy can ever hope to.

Theres one other factor to feel hopeful, and its a controversial one: money. Cash talks; and big cash shouts. And when its $130tr (₤ 96.6 tr), it makes a great deal of noise undoubtedly. Thats the overall amount of properties that is– in theory, a minimum of– now handled in accordance with the goal to transition to a low-carbon economy, by the 450 members of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, introduced by former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney..

Keeping warming to 1.5 C refers survival for some low-lying countries. Image: Jailam Rashad.

In summary, then, COP26 and its associated circus didnt fix climate modification. Theres still a mountain to climb, and its scarily steep. To dismiss it as all “blah blah blah” is to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of basically decent people, pushing for the best possible development in an imperfect world..

Commitments to end deforestation were backed up by some substantial funding pledges. Image: Guy Bowden.

Initially, the fact that the official target is now to restrict the temperature increase to 1.5 C represents real progress. Under the Paris agreement of 2015, which was the previous legally binding offer, the main aspiration was just “well below 2C”. Half a degree might seem like small beer, however for a lot of the worlds poorer communities, not to mention its coastal cities, it could indicate the difference between destruction and survival.

Theres a great deal of work to do. However were still in this.

To mention the apparent first: it hasnt repaired environment modification– not by a long chalk. Accumulate all the dedications made by federal governments as part of the Glasgow Pact, and were still on track for 2.4 C of worldwide temperature rise– method beyond the convenience zone..

The world as a whole hasnt even committed to phasing out coal– important for any real development.

Put all that together, along with other dedications, and the reputable International Energy Agency concluded we might just be on track to hit a 1.8 C rise– if (and its an if the size of the world) everyone does what they state they will..

That was backed up by a renewed– and terribly needed– sense of seriousness, with countries consenting to return next year (at COP27 in Egypt) with revised nationwide prepare for more enthusiastic climate goals– instead of send these only every five years.

Regarding coal (and fossil fuels more usually): the language may be weak, but it is, ridiculously, the first time theres ever been a COP recommendation to the need to move beyond them. The elephant in the room has at last been called and shamed, to put it simply, and with federal governments, providing firms and banks significantly devoted to ending funding for new coal plants, its days actually do appear to be numbered.

On coal, for example, they included a pilot plan to assist South Africa make a decisive simply shift away from its coal dependency. On fossil fuels more typically, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, introduced by Costa Rica and Denmark, has actually helped set a requirement for bigger nations to aspire to.

Main image: Extinction Rebellions red-robed protesters in Glasgow. Protesters Mark Richards/Extinction Rebellion.

So, there are genuine points of light in amongst the storm clouds. They might be small and flickering just now, however like the headlamps of far-off trains glimpsed through the mist, if they can just remain on track, then those lights will grow and brighter. Whether that occurs, and whether it takes place fast enough, is down to federal governments, business, civil society– and each and every one people..

Beyond the Glasgow Pact itself, both the first and 2nd weeks of COP26 experienced a host of parallel announcements and alliances which, while aspirational rather than legally binding, cant simply be written off as buzz and greenwash..

There was the commitment to end deforestation by 2030– signed up to by 100 nations, consisting of (to substantial surprise) some of the primary motorists of deforestation, such as Brazil and Indonesia. And it was backed by some large financing promises from both governments and private donors, including (ironically) $2bn (₤ 1.49 bn) from Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

The COP26 circus has left Glasgow. Was it all just a load of blah, blah, blah, or were there real indications of progress? Under the Paris agreement of 2015, which was the previous lawfully binding deal, the main aspiration was just “well below 2C”. On coal, for example, they consisted of a pilot plan to help South Africa make a definitive simply transition away from its coal dependency. They might be little and flickering just now, however like the headlamps of remote trains glimpsed through the mist, if they can just stay on track, then those lights will get larger and brighter.

Look a little closer at what, at times, was a stormy COP26, and youll determine some real points of light amongst the clouds.

Meanwhile, abundant nation federal governments are still hesitant to own up to their responsibility for the lions share of carbon emissions, and put appropriately serious amounts of cash on the table to compensate poorer states for the loss and damage they suffer as an outcome.

Theres a lot of work to do. Were still in this.

About the author