global leaders at COP26

Global Leaders’ COP26 Report Card: Must Do Better

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COP26 wrapped up on Saturday 13th November and rather than ending with a bang it felt like more of a fizzle out, akin to a slowly deflating balloon. Judging by reactions, opinions of the outcomes are a mixed bag of opinions straddling the extremes of being completely unsuccessful to a great first step. 

Never before has such a summit been so vital as we see the world ravaged with floods, wildfires, heatwaves and hurricanes, alongside more temperate events such as mild autumns, and wet summers with global temperatures only at 1.1°C higher that pre-industrial levels. If we are dealing with this now, what would a further increase of at least 1.5 do to our planet?

The conference ended with world leaders receiving a ticking off from the architects of the Paris agreement, being that they needed to come back next year with policies that were far more further reaching to truly address this climate crisis. This shows some key similarities to one or two of the report cards I, the author, received at school – English: Must do better! 

On that note, here is our report card for the World Leaders at the Glasgow 2021 COP26 Climate Summit:


Fossil Fuels U
As a deal already viewed by some as too weak came a last-minute objection from the delegates representing India and China regarding the term ‘phase out’ in preference of the weaker ‘phase down’ in relation to coal use. Alok Sharma, the COP26 President was clearly choking back tears as he apologised to the delegates in the room for the weaker language and overall weaker deal. This objection came less than a week before India had to close all coal power stations and limit highly polluting vehicles from entering their capital city, Delhi, as smog creeped across the city

Phasing out coal was one of the key targets for the conference and the late intervention came as a huge hit to nations already suffering the impacts of climate change. This is still the first COP text that includes a pledge to reduce the use of coal, though, there is still no mention of highly polluting oil and natural gas.

Costa Rica, who has infamously run 300 days on exclusively renewable power and Denmark came together to form the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance – where to enter, governments need to set an end date for fossil fuel production in their boarders in line with the Paris conference. Wales, California and New Zealand are among some of the countries who have signed up to this.

Funding E
One of the most painfully ironic moments of COP26 was the world leaders talking about raising the US$100bn annual contribution to developing nations to US$1tn to help with the adaption and mitigation to climate change – according to BBC journalist Adam Fleming. The irony strikes because the target to reach the donation of 100bn a year was to be met by 2020. The outcome of this conference was that developed nations would try to meet this contribution by 2023.
This is the first COP text which has explicitly put limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which is an improvement comparative to the ‘below 2° rise’ target set out in Paris.

China and the US have also announced they will be working together to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and if President Biden can achieve this mission in both his country and China – the impact would be drastic for the chances of the whole planet to limit temperature rises to 1.5° by the same date.

Over 100 countries agreed to cut emissions of methane by 30% of 2020 levels by 2030 which is a good first step, as methane is 84x more potent than methane. Though the US, Brazil and Indonesia did sign, the three countries which make up 35% of emissions – China, India and Russia, did not sign. This could reduce global temperature rises by a predicted 0.2°.

Well Known Activist’s Speeches B
As always, Greta Thunberg was the centre of a large amount of publicity. Thunberg was not formally invited to the conference, though she led marches, delivered speeches, and engaged in protests and returned with her now infamous “blah, blah, blah” line when referring to the politician’s negotiations. Though not a collective organisation, the cries from other young activists seem to mirror Thunberg’s sentiment that these political events consist of words not actions.

The most powerful speech, more a presentation surrounding the history of the climate and changes humans have enforced on it, was delivered by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough. Though speaking to the negotiators and decision makers in the room, it was clearly a presentation to engage those further across society, bringing the world’s attention to the climate crisis – sequentially, to ramp up the pressure members of the public put on their negotiators to act now. His aim of this speech is exactly what OggaDoon CEO Caroline Macdonald predicted in an interview with me before COP kicked off. His most powerful line was: “If working apart we are force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it”. 

Lesser-Known Activist’s Speeches A*
The young activist, entrepreneur and Earthshot winner Vinisha Umashankar from India really put the hypothetical dates into context by listing off the ages she would be at each of the key dates set out at this conference. She ended her list with “at [the year] 2100, [I will be] hopefully still going strong at 94” years old. She pitched to both the government and private sector on the need to invest in sustainable ideas and to listen to the young who will be inhabiting the planet and the resolutions of this conference. 

Amazonian activist Txai Surruí’s powerful speech on how indigenous people are seeing first-hand how “the climate is warming, the animals are disappearing, the rivers are dying, and our plants don’t flower like they did before. The earth is speaking, and she tells us ‘we have no more time’”. Surruí also powerfully recalled how her childhood friend was killed for protecting the forests and demanded that her people must be part of the decision-making process.

The Political Speeches C
Despite being delivered by a politician, the most powerful speech – for me – was by the Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs Minister of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe. Speaking to camera, Kofe delivered a speech in the usual politician attire regarding how sea level rise threatened the eight islands of Tuvalu. The message was really struck home when he noted “We cannot wait for speeches whilst the sea is rising around us all the time” as the camera panned out and into the sky to show Kofe standing knee deep in the ocean in front of an abandoned house claimed by the rising sea.

Former President Obama delivered a speech on the necessity for proper action. Ironically, when in office, he drastically expanded oil explorations in the US, so does he have the right to the same platform as others? Obama’s speech was very clearly targeting a US audience with a damming indictment of Trump now both are ex-Presidents and clearly a rallying cry for his former VP among Biden’s falling poll figures. Furthermore, Obama was allotted an hour for his COP address whilst world leaders were given 3 minutes; clearly a view of the star-power status Obama still commands – as perceived by the UN organisers.

Next Steps D
Is 1.5 alive? It definitely took a hit this week, but with the line staying in the deal that all countries agree to meet again next year with more ambitious targets, there is still some hope left. Whether anything will change though is up for debate. 

At current, the scientific question of whether the world leader’s pledges will help hit the 1.5°C rise above pre-industrial levels results in a resounding ‘no’. In fact, these pledges made would only reduce global temperature rise to a projected 2.4° higher than pre-industrial levels by 2100 and with current political action – to 2.7°.

In classic Johnsonian style, here’s an awful metaphor to end this report card: the mocks are over and the leaders’ grades have gone up from an F to an E. Before they sit the A Levels, they need to make substantial progress in not much time to have any chance of making it to uni. 

What will the resolutions of COP26 mean for your business? Find out more here.

What do you think about the COP26 resolutions? Leave a reply below.

Author: Tim HumphreysPR, Social and Content Intern at OggaDoon

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