COP26 – Aftermath

Aftermath: “the period that follows an unpleasant event …, and the effects that it causes.” 

It is now just over two weeks since COP26 ended.  Most reports agree that it was a failure, but with a few minor positive outcomes.  Not a complete failure, but not too far off.  Nothing that was agreed will help us to avoid a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – we are not yet in a position to “keep 1.5 alive”.

Six long years ago, the Paris Agreement committed world leaders to limiting global heating to 2 degrees with the aim or desire to keep it below 1.5.  Yet still emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise.  We are already in the position where global average temperatures have risen by around 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels.  Nationally Determined Contributions were a mechanism devised in Paris to recognise the common but differentiated responsibilities of all countries across the world, allowing each government to commit to the level of emission reductions they were able to achieve.  But the pledges made in the approach to COP26 and during the conference are insufficient to prevent significant additional global heating and if this is the best that can be attained, we are locked in to exceeding 2 degrees.

What was and was not agreed?

Highlights of COP26 were:

  • 137 world leaders committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, covering 91% of the world’s forests
  • More than 100 countries signed up to the Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.  This includes six of the world’s top 10 methane emitters and equates to a potential of 46% of global methane emissions.

But:

  • There was no agreement to phase out fossil fuel use or even to end the production and use of coal
  • The finance to help developing nations mitigate the effects of climate breakdown was not forthcoming
  • There was no agreement on loss or damage (see COP26 – The Role of Finance) although more pledges were made
  • The Chinese government did not come up with any new pledges and although the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, did commit to net zero emissions, it will not be before 2070!

Despite hosting the summit, the UK government did not agree to block the development of a new coal mine in Cumbria or to rescind the agreement to fund the Cambo oil field and the US President, within days of the end of the summit, granted new concessions for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Empty promises

I have avoided writing anything about the outcome of COP26 until now because the feelings of loss, disappointment, betrayal, anger and frustration were too raw at the end of the conference.  If you have read any of the previous posts in this short series, you will be aware that many expectations of the COP were low, but that did not prevent me from experiencing all those feelings in the aftermath of the conference.  We experienced 14 days of rousing and heartfelt speeches and positive words but ultimately we came away with empty pledges and promises.

What now?

So what happens next?  With the benefit of hindsight, it was clear there was not going to be any “road to Damascus” moments with so many parties involved.  The reality is that, for you and me, for the scientists, NGOs, activists and teachers the work goes on.  At ideostone, we are going to continue with our mission to encourage environmental literacy by getting as many people as possible learning about climate breakdown and all the other associated environmental crises we face.  Our next course is nearly ready to go live and others are in the pipeline.  We have begun the initial planning for a more ambitious, blended learning programme for small businesses in the early summer of 2022.  This will focus on the concept of net zero.  We will help small business owners to: understand what net zero means; the implications for their business; and what small businesses have to do to achieve this (or some other, potentially more realistic and meaningful) goal.

We will tell you more about the new courses as soon as we can but in the meantime, if you are uncertain what you should be doing in the aftermath of COP26, you could have a look at our existing courses on Udemy.

If you are reading this post, you probably understand the concept of climate breakdown and our first course, “What do we mean by climate breakdown?” may be a bit basic but the next in the series, “What can we do about Climate Breakdown?” sets out some actions for all of us as individuals.  It also begins to look at the broader picture, recognising the contribution of business and government to the increasingly difficult position we find ourselves in.  “Climate Breakdown – What do we want governments to do?” and “Climate Breakdown – What do we want from business and organisations?” develop this theme further and provide you with some tools to encourage and persuade government and business to take appropriate action.

If, like me, you are having to deal with the feelings of loss, disappointment, betrayal, anger and frustration in the aftermath of COP26, please do not give in to despair but take positive action.  We hope our courses may guide you in the right direction.