GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — As the 26th Conference of the Parties, or COP26, drew to a close last week, now it is more imperative than ever that we reflect on our growing commitments to addressing climate change in a meaningful way.
To begin, the Glasgow Climate Pact is meaningful and should be admired for its groundbreaking new commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the continued pledge of the 1.5 degrees celsius goal without increasing the threshold of acceptable global warming. While political pundits dispute the outcomes of COP26, the truth is, a lot of things are going for our most recent climate accord.
What few would dispute is the text and intent of COP26 being somewhat of a letdown of what was expected from the Glasgow conference. At the last minute, Indian and Chinese representatives to the conference refused to adopt the final pact’s language of “phasing out” coal energy and instead proposed a rewording to the phrase “phasing down” the use of coal as an energy source. Sharing his thoughts, COP26 President Alok Sharma told British news outlet The Guardian that he was, “deeply frustrated” by the whole affair and viewed the change as subversive to developing nations who are reliant on COP26 to throw them a lifeline in reducing the effects of climate change, stating that, “They will have to explain to climate-vulnerable countries why they did what they did.”
The very simple truth is that if the world wants to get serious about climate change, no international accord written in drafts and compromised at the last minute to appease fossil fuel dependent nations — 53% of energy generated in India comes from coal, and 57% of energy generated in China comes from coal — will do. The science is clear: should the world sit idly, average global temperatures will rise by 2.5 degrees celsius by the end of the century, and as the New York Times details, “It will be too hot to go outside during heat waves in the Middle East and South Asia. Droughts will grip Central America, the Mediterranean and southern Africa. And many island nations and low-lying areas, from Texas to Bangladesh, will be overtaken by rising seas.” It is the ultimate nightmare scenario.
Further letdowns happened over the structure of the newly signed Glasgow Climate Pact. From a financial perspective, developing nations around the world are slowly losing coastlines and losing environments to degradation at the hands of the greenhouse effects without any financial indicator to support them in their struggles. Even with the United Nations Environmental Program estimating developing nations requiring 70 billion dollars a year in aid to counter the effects of climate change, COP26 glaringly put the issue off to the side and did not resolve it with negotiations. From the developing countries’ perspective, this is nothing less than a complete loss in the fight against climate change and in supporting vulnerable populations.