We have now finished the first week of COP26. COP stands for Conference of the Parties. The 2021 Glasgow meeting will be the 26th meeting, which is why it’s called COP26. It will be attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed on in 1994.
The goals of COP26 are to:
- Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
Countries will need to:
- accelerate the phase-out of coal
- curtail deforestation
- speed up the switch to electric vehicles
- encourage investment in renewables.
- Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
We need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:
- protect and restore ecosystems
- build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
- Mobilise finance
To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
- Work together to deliver
At COP26 we must:
- finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational)
- accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.
That is the official bit, gleaned from the COP 26 website.
It means that the developed countries have not actually paid the $100bn per year they promised at Paris in 2015, and that despite almost six years the Paris rulebook has not been finalised. It looks like bad news, but I am optimistic.
It seems tome that the media are taking a pessimistic line, mentioning China as the largest provider of coal-generated power in the world, and saying that India’s pledge to carbon-zero by 2070 to be disappointing.
China is the largest provider of renewable energy in the world, generating twice as much renewable energy as the second largest country, the USA. Renewables make up 26% of China’s energy, compared to 17% in the USA, and the share of renewables in China is growing, a massive wind and solar plant is being built in the desert by China. The size of China has to be taken into account, and that the rest of her power is generated almost solely by coal, so the amount of coal-generated power is massive and needs to be cut. China is still building coal power stations as well as renewables, but the proportion of coal is going down.
By comparison, the UK over the same period as the figures from China generated 37.1% of its power from renewables, but the UK has a lot lower power demands than China or the USA. (The UK figures for the final quarter of 2020 of 43% of renewables and 37% by fossil fuels is misleading, the final quarter of 2020 was in semi-lockdown. the figure for the quarter ending September 2021 is 37.3% renewables, almost the same as pre-lockdown levels).
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge that his country will meet a target of net zero emissions by 2070, has been reported as disappointing as the target was hoped to be 2050, twenty years earlier. But what had India pledged before this? Nothing at all. That India, a country previously dedicated to no change is now acknowledging the need for a net-zero target is good news, especially as this was announced on the first day of the conference, think of it as a negotiable figure. “If you will reduce your target of net-zero to an earlier date, we will give you x,” is how the negotiations ought to go.
Other reasons for optimism
Despite the UN secretary-general, António Guterres saying that climate optimism is an illusion because the climate situation is improving, there is much to be optimistic about.
David Attenborough called in his speech at the conference for a new industrial revolution powered by millions of sustainable innovations. He said we should be motivated by hope, not fear. “In my lifetime, I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery.”
USA’s President Biden has apologised for his predecessor’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement and has pledged that his country is not only back in the fold but will lead by example.
I am hopeful. Whatever is agreed at COP26 will not all happen, I am being realistic, but some of it will happen. I am hopeful that it will make a difference. It will not be enough, so pressure will have to be maintained so that what is achieved in Glasgow these two weeks can be built on in the future. Those who pray please continue to pray for an agreement at COP26 and that that agreement will be implemented.