The COP26 event is a global United Nations (UN) summit about climate change and how countries are planning to tackle it and any decisions made could lead to big changes to our everyday lives. When we talk about climate change, we are talking about global changes in the Earth's average temperature. The Earth's average temperature moves up and down naturally, but it has been increasing more rapidly than it usually does. This change is impacting on the planet's environment - which is everything natural around us; rivers, trees, plants, animals... everything!
An Ambitious Start
The Conference was attended by world leaders whose countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty agreed in 1994. The summit brought together global leaders (presidents, prime ministers etc). This signified the importance and role of world leaders to take responsibility and deliver credible plans aimed at achieving a successful COP and coordinated action to tackle climate change.
The 2021 meeting is the 26th meeting, which is why it's called COP26. At COP26 delegates aimed to finalize the ‘Paris Rulebook’, the rules needed to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, and conclude outstanding issues from COP25 in Madrid. They also sought to deliver on all essential negotiating items for 2020 and 2021.
While every president's speech is played on news outlets, the real work begins at the COP. Negotiations include discussions between different states, financial institutions, corporations, and groups on their needs and potential targets to achieve the 1.5 degrees target. The purpose of all these negotiations is to come out of the COP26 with a strong package of decisions, declarations, programs, financial funnels, and commitments all under the purpose of limiting global warming and climate change.
Some of the main agreements reached during the negotiation period of the COP26 included (BBC):
More than 100 world leaders promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, including Brazil, home of the Amazon rainforest.
More than 40 countries committed to move away from coal - but the world's biggest users like China and the US did not sign up.
The US and the EU announced a global partnership to cut emissions of the green house gas methane by 30% come 2030.
A Slipshod Conclusion
As the COP26 came to a conclusion, a surprising turn of events occurred where an unexpected change was requested in the main text of the COP26 pact. India, with support from China, requested that the wording regarding coal be changed from "Phased Out" to "Phased Down." That means that the focus will not be on eliminating coal produced energy rather reducing it.
Many were unhappy with the final text. But eventually countries agreed to a compromise as the clock ticked down and protestors outside the venue demanded they take action to stem warming that is already led to floods, heatwaves, and rising sea levels. There was particular pressure to reach an agreement on carbon market rules as the private market outside the UN’s control booms, fueling worries about free-for-all trading that could facilitate greenwashing.
COP26 President Alok Sharma, expressed regret about how the last-minute haggling had been conducted in small huddles that excluded most countries. “I apologize for the way this process has unfolded, and I’m deeply sorry,” he said, close to tears. “I also understand the deep disappointment, but as you have already noted it is also vital that we protect this package.”