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COP26 Provides a Pathway to Change, but the Future is Still Uncertain

By Naomi Borek and Laila Bapna

World leader meet at COP26 Robert Perry/EPA

On November 1, 2021, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference began. After missing last year due to COVID, this was an important moment that would help decide the next steps in the path to stopping climate change. This conference, more commonly known as COP (Conference of Parties) was the 26th annual summit thus giving it the name COP26. This conference took place in Glasgow, Scotland, and was hosted by the United Kingdom. Global leaders from around the world including President Biden as well as activists and experts gathered to discuss the climate crisis.

COP21, which took place in Paris in 2015, culminated in the ratification of the Paris Agreement, the most influential climate agreement to date. Under the agreement, all the countries committed to creating plans that would reduce carbon emissions called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs. The objective was to stop climate change before the temperature rose by 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is considered by many experts as the “no turning back” point in the climate fight. COP26 will reflect on the progress made since 2015 and decide how best to continue moving onward.

This year’s conference appears largely successful. A crucial agreement was struck when on Saturday, November 13, diplomats from 200 countries called on governments to meet again next year with plans to stop emissions. The United States pledged to double funding for the effects of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable nations by 2025. This agreement reaffirmed the truth that time is running out quickly. The agreement also solved one of the major sources of conflict at this conference, which is how wealthy nations who are responsible for the majority of emissions can help poorer countries who are most affected by climate change. The answer was through compensation.

Several other agreements also came out of this summit. The U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest polluters, announced a joint agreement to cut emissions this decade. China also committed to developing a plan for reducing methane and phasing out coal. Leaders of more than 100 countries vowed to end deforestation by 2030. The agreement covers 85 percent of the world’s forests. This pledge was, however, criticized by advocacy groups because similar, unsuccessful efforts have been made in the past. As pushed by the Biden Administration, more than 100 countries agreed to cut the methane emissions by 30 percent by the end of the decade. A growing number of countries are pledging to reach “net-zero” emissions by 2070. India, one of the world’s largest consumers of coal, also pledged to increase its renewable energy use to half of its total energy.

However, many youth climate leaders are not happy with the progress made at the summit. Umuhoza Grace Ineza, a 25-year-old activist and negotiator from Rwanda was frustrated while watching the COP sessions. She would often hear leaders say, "Ooh, let's try this way, that way, and then we can come up with a decision next session” (NPR).

The major takeaway from this summit continues to uphold the idea that although we are making major steps towards stopping climate change, we are not where we should be. The necessity of fast and effective work has never been more clear.


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