COP26 – UN Climate Change Conference concluded on the 13th of November 2021 with nearly 200 counties agreeing to the Glasgow Climate Pact. It will take combined effort, increased ambition and action for progress to be made in keeping 1.5 °C within reach and tackle climate change. So, what has COP26 done to keep 1.5 °C alive:

  • Over 90% of global emissions are now covered by net-zero commitments
  • Nationally determined contributions now cover 80% of global emissions.
  • A commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
  • Speeding up the switch to electric vehicles.
  • Phasing out coal faster.
  • Ending deforestation.

Global Road Technology takes a contrarian approach by looking at the questions that remain after the Glasgow Climate Pact and less of the possible answers brought by the agreements at COP26. 26 years later wordsmithing continues in the real quest to solve the current climate challenges given that for more than 40 years we’ve known that burning fossil fuels leads to climate change. From 1900 to 1975 the temperature increased by 0.4 °C from 1975 to 2015 temperature increased by another 0.4 °C to 0.8 °C. It took only another 6 years to add another 0.4 °C taking us to 1.2 °C as the trend continues going past the 1.5 °C mark might be inevitable if some of these critical questions are not answered by actionable changes that seek to bring the 1.5 °C down instead of seeking a sustainable 1.5 °C. We can’t be excused by a lack of awareness or disagreement over the need for urgent action yet in the same light, we still can’t mobilize to concentrate our efforts as one planet to tackle this existential challenge to our status quo. 

Question 1: How did the global leaders offset the carbon emissions they produced flying and driving around COP26? 

Question 2: What are the exact commitments made by the Earth’s top 15 polluters, that an independent commission can verify every three months to check their compliance?

Question 3: What are the sanctions agreed for those that are non-compliant?

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

Question 4: What are the binding guarantees of enforcement of those sanctions? 

Question 5: Has personal interest of growth suddenly been replaced by respect for the environment? 

Question 6: Do commitments translate to actions? 

Question 7: How is ‘greenwashing’ guarded against when so much is at stake? 

Question 8: Is climate messaging conveying the ‘What’ and ‘How’ as opposed to driving for the ‘Why’? 

Question 9: What is the endeavor to leave no one behind? 

Question 10: Is the fate of the ‘rest of the world’ being decided by a few? 

The contrarian take…

The continued talk about a phase down instead of a phase out on coal is on the table, but there seems to be no financial help to the small and developing nations who bear the brunt on climate change caused by richer and more powerful nations. COP26 needs further improvement, phased out should be for developed nations and phase down should be for developed nations. Financial help should be provided to small nationals. COP26 draft should have been continent based, saving each continent including Antarctic. Each continent consisting of both developed and underdeveloped nations should have separate goals upon identification of areas that need to be worked on specifically to reach the target of 1.5 °C. The race is between nature and mankind and in between is the global economy that plays a very huge role. It would be interesting to find out if the COP26 conference was powered by renewable energy and if all vehicles used to transport leaders were electric vehicles. Looking back in time, what has led the world to this alarming situation, has there been conversation about the carbon footprint generated since the industrial revolution which made the developed nations. 

What about if we worked together!

Talk is cheap, promises are weak but in all our industries we can make a difference if only we worked together, after all what’s the point of making huge profits if it’s worthless in the long term. Change must be adopted in a positive harmonious way in agreement with world leaders but don’t promise what you will never deliver. It’s so easy to agree and then business as usual which will continue the cycle of inaction. Once again, it’s down to the people on the ground to change the world, for some the worry should not be about the outcome of COP26 but rather worry about what they are doing to minimize their impact on the environment. The easy part is done, now to make it a reality there is need for immense political will, groundbreaking collaboration, a lot of work and significant investment. The reality is that there are unsurmountable challenges for the next generations and the conclusions of COP26 are quite disappointing because everything is based on states’ promises to maintain their roadmap without any penalties in the event of non-compliance. 

Is 1.5 °C still worth hoping for?

The latest Climate Action Tracker analysis indicates that mean global temperature will increase by more than 2 °C with current targets and pledges. COP26 seems to have kept 1.5 °C on life support. We are catastrophically far from the crucial goal of 1.5 °C, and yet governments everywhere are still accelerating the crisis and spending billions on fossil fuels. This is not a drill, its code red for the Earth. Millions will suffer as our planet is devastated and a terrifying future that will be created or avoided is based on the decisions made. As citizens across the planet, facing the climate crisis and emergency is not about next year or next month it’s about NOW. Whether we will see more pragmatism in climate action due to failure in finding a unanimous compromise formula at a United Nations level, we are hoping a climate club of ambitious pioneers was formed. These pioneers are ready to take up responsibility and lead the way to develop clean technologies and new instruments that invite participation and imitation. 

Wrapping it up with Richard Allan

Richard Allan, is a Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading and these were his words in the Guardian on 14 November 2021:

“Less than 10 years ago the solid science of human-caused climate change was still disputed by agenda-driven individuals and organizations who should be made accountable for their damaging delaying tactics. Based on the clear scientific evidence, Cop26 has made progress towards a net-zero CO2 emissions world, but continued expansion of ambition is crucial in limiting the growing severity of climate extremes and to avoid rendering some regions uninhabitable for future generations.”

“Given the glacial pace of progress on climate action, in part due to the blatant short-term self-interest of powerful individuals and organizations, it’s almost tempting – like Gulliver at the end of his travels – to feel a sense of loathing for the human species. But there is also a sense of guarded optimism that a spark of the universe came alive, wondered at the beauty of our world, eventually noticed we were soiling it terribly before [we] imperfectly yet doggedly and collectively began digging ourselves out of our mess.”

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