COP26 and the race against climate change



Blog by Blanca

Sustainable Merton Community Champion


Since climate change emerged years ago as the greatest challenge faced by humanity, countries around the world have made some important changes in the way our societies and economies function to try to reduce carbon dioxide, CO2, emissions. But has this been enough? The outcomes of the Conference of the Parties 26th meeting, COP26, that took place in November in Glasgow has raised that very question.


The way to reduce global warming is by cutting CO2 emissions. The overall goal is to keep cutting emissions until we reach net zero by mid-century. The term net zero means achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. This will happen when the amount of carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed.


Six years ago, under the Paris Agreement, countries were asked to make changes in order to keep global warming well below 2°C - and try to aim for 1.5°C. COP26 revisited this pledge and ahead of the meeting, 200 countries were asked for their plans to cut emissions by 2030. While the objective is still the same, it doesn’t look that we will be achieving our target in nine-years time. At the moment, even if the current plans are fully implemented, global warming expectations are 2.4°C.


For the first time at a COP conference, there was an explicit plan to reduce the use of coal - which is responsible for 40% of annual CO2 emissions. However, the intervention of India and China - two of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide - made it impossible to phase out coal, and instead, a phase-down was agreed upon. World leaders also committed to eliminating subsidies that artificially lower the price of coal, oil, or natural gas.


Equally, wealthy nations increased climate finance for poorer countries, which are the ones that suffer the effects of climate change the most.


COPs meetings will carry on taking place on annual basis, the next one being COP27 in Egypt. Regardless of whether the implementation of their agreements take place or not, as individuals, there is a lot we can do to accelerate the race against climate change. Luckily there is enough information out there to help us make informed sustainable life choices. We just need to be willing to change some of our daily habits and share the process with everyone around us so that they can join us.