From October 31, 2021through November 12, 2021, The United States joined almost 22 other countries in Glasgow, Scotland for the 26th annual United Nations Conference of Parties in Glasgow, or COP26. COP26 served as an opportunity for the UN to come together and strengthen the global commitment to reducing climate change. COP26 has been regarded as the “biggest and most important climate-related conference on the planet.”
COP26 resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact (or GCP), which acknowledges that bigger and more meaningful changes are necessary to reach the goal of preventing atmospheric temperatures from growing more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels as established under the Paris climate agreement. Though overall not dissimilar to previous years’ climate conferences, it is notable that the GCP is the first agreement to demand a “phase-out of unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” This is important, as replacing energy from coal with more renewable energy could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. However, this commitment will prove especially hard for developing countries that rely heavily on coal. Additionally, the pledges made by these nations are not binding, and though they do help to hold countries accountable, they are no promise for change. The ultimate goal of COP26 was to finalise the ‘Paris Rulebook.’ This refers to revisiting the original plan that the Paris agreement laid out in 2015. Now, in 2021, Glasgow was seen as a final chance to make the Paris agreement a reality rather than just a proposition. Given that even if Paris goals are met, global temperatures are still predicted to rise at least 2.7 degrees Celsius, making the description of a “last chance” not so inaccurate. The two-degree scenario is widely seen as the global community’s accepted limitation of temperature growth to avoid significant and potentially catastrophic changes to the planet. This was set during the Paris agreement, and as previously mentioned, COP26 worked to make this a reality.
The ability to cut emissions in half in the next 10 years relies on the countries staying true to their pledges, and citizens holding them accountable to do so. Even so, many are skeptical of COP26 as it is, given that even shifts to more renewable energy and decarbonization will simply not be enough to limit temperature rise by two degrees Celsius in such a short amount of time.