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COP26: Future or Failure?


[To read more about climate change, read our profile of professor Alexander More written by Managing Editor, Reyna Iwamoto]

This year the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) was held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31st to November 12th.

COP26, formerly known as the Conference of the Parties Convention, has been held yearly for the past 26 years and at this year’s summit, there were various focal points on the agenda that younger generations have been pushing for.

Over a two-week period, hundreds of government leaders and delegates came together to establish new agreements for reducing carbon emissions. Government leaders who were in attendance at the conference included: President Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

When the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 at COP21, all countries agreed to collaborate to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, aiming at an even lower 1.5 degrees Celsius, which has been calculated to be the average global temperature.

The Paris Agreement’s objective was to have every country involved in reaching global emission reduction goals every 5 years. This would in turn ensure that these countries heightened their emissions reduction goals from the ones set in 2015. The pandemic resulted in the 2020 meeting to be canceled, thus making COP26 the first official 5-year mark up.

This year’s summit marked the first time that at a COP conference created a plan of action to eliminate the use of coal, which accounts for a whopping 40 percent of yearly CO2 emissions. However, after a late push from China and India, the countries agreed to reduce the use of coal instead of eliminating it.

Current pledges are projected to only halt global warming by 2.4 degrees, giving way to the destruction of all coral reefs, increased population exposure to extreme heat, heavy rainfall and drought.

However, the United Nations as a whole agreed to help fund poorer countries, and support them in making the switch to renewable energy. World leaders also discussed phasing out subsidies that synthetically lower the price of oil and natural gas.

Over 100 countries also agreed to end deforestation and cut methane emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. Most importantly, the world's top emitters, the US and China, agreed to work together to reduce emissions despite their clashing views. Here, they both pledged to contribute more over the coming years to reduce their emissions.

The Biden administration alone has set the moderate goal of cutting emission in half by the end of the decade, then progressing to zero-emissions by 2050. While this seems impressive, independent research organization, Climate Action Tracker, rates US policies against climate change as insufficient.

They alleged that our 2030 goal is consistent with limiting global warming by only 2 degrees, evidently failing to reach the agreed 1.5 degrees. If all countries modeled their climate actions like the US, global warming would reach up to 3 degrees.

When speaking in front of his colleagues during the COP26 summit, President Biden said, “We can keep the goal of limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius within our reach if we come together, if we commit to doing our part for each of our nations with determination and with ambition. That’s what COP26 is all about.”

According to Pew Research Center, people around the world understand that climate change will negatively impact them with 72 percent of people in a study demonstrating that they are very concerned with the potential harm global climate change poses to their personal lives.

We also see a majority of people having little confidence that the actions taken worldwide will drastically decrease the impact of climate change. Despite this fact, 80 percent of people are still willing to change their actions and routines to help lessen climate change.

Some ways that you can help and make a difference are: recycling, using public transportation, cutting meat out of your diet for a meal or two here and there, stop using single waste plastic, and most importantly educating yourself on the people you’re voting for. Make sure your elected officials have climate change on their agenda because we want the future to be feasible, not a failure.

Prime Minister Trudeau juxtaposed climate efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic saying, “In the same way that we’re all working together to end the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to bring that same sense of urgency to bear on the climate crisis and on biodiversity loss.”

COP27 is set to be held next year in Egypt and will hopefully see stronger policies and funding towards ending climate change.

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