After much anticipation, the long-awaited COP26 has now concluded.
But after two weeks of pledges, speeches, events and debates, what has actually been agreed by world leaders? And what’s next in the race to fight climate change?
We’ve sifted through the key announcements to collate some of our most pressing, unanswered questions:
When will we see concrete plans for the pledges made?
The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C has been at the core of all the pledges and commitments made over the past two weeks. Arguably one of the biggest surprises was India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi setting a net zero target for the country by 2070.
However, whie bold commitments of this type are exactly what we need, many – this one included – still lack concrete details on exactly how these goals will be achieved. Over the coming weeks and months, all eyes will be on those who made grand promises to see if their actions speak louder than words.
Mark Carney is ready to lead the charge, but do the numbers add up?
During week one, the ex-Bank of England Governor took centre stage to outline his vision for the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).
It came as no surprise that his claims around the coalition committing up to $130 trillion to hit net zero grabbed headlines. But were his commitments overblown?
Possibly so. Carney and co. have already received public criticism that this impressive figure is a result of “double counting” (which, ironically, is the same accusation that corporations receive when reporting on their own emissions), so we expect to see further details from GFANZ to clarify this issue. Companies that are part of this alliance will also have to commit to a deadline to withdraw fossil fuel funding to gain any sort of credibility. Practise what you preach.
Is China taking the climate crisis seriously?
Xi Jinping’s absence in Glasgow drew criticism from all corners of the globe. Barack Obama called China out for its “dangerous lack of urgency”. Meanwhile, others said the nation has damaged its claim as a world leader after failing to make any meaningful pledges. Unsurprisingly, China defended its absence by saying it has concrete plans on how to meet its commitments, rather than some countries that are “paying lip service” to their targets.
The country did provide a glimmer of hope during the second week when a surprise agreement was made with the US, with both superpowers promising to cooperate closely on climate change. This is the kind of coordinated effort that the world needs to see to make any kind of meaningful progress. However just three days later, China – the world’s biggest emitter – was the main driver behind the language on coal to change from “phase out” to “phase down” in the final deal agreed in Glasgow. These contradictory moves from China will raise further questions about whether it is taking the climate crisis seriously.
Will poor countries get the help they have been asking for?
The world’s richest nations have been under the spotlight after their commitments to set aside $100 billion a year to help poorer, more vulnerable countries adapt to climate change have fallen short. And it’s no surprise that leaders in these countries have warned that ongoing failures to reach these figures will be catastrophic for the poorer nations. Governments need to reach these targets fast, otherwise we will see a breakdown of trust that threatens to undermine any progress made during COP26.
A success or failure?
Western politicians will walk away from the conference patting themselves on the back claiming COP26 was a success, but it will take years to find out if the commitments made will have any impact on the 1.5°C goal. In the short-term, the media will play an important role holding governments and companies to account, making sure those who fail to back up their promises have nowhere to hide. One thing is for sure: those who fail to make meaningful progress over the next 12 months won’t be wanting to take center stage at COP27 in Egypt next year.