We cover the key news from the first few days of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26).
The 26th UN Climate Change Conference, or COP 26, has taken place every year since 1995. This month, world leaders are meeting for the 26th conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The annual conference hosts those who have signed the international environmental treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
COP 26 was meant to occur from the 9th to the 19th of November 2020 but is now taking place from the 1st to the 12th of November 2021. We cover the top news from the first two days of the event.
Opening words from leaders
The event opened with apocalyptic rhetoric as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson compared global warming to “a doomsday device” strapped to humanity.
“We are digging our own graves,” added UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Two absences of note are Xi Jinping, president of the top carbon polluting nation China, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. China and Russia remain two of the top polluting nations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also did not attend the conference.
India’s lagging net zero targets
India’s PM, Narendra Modi, said that his country will achieve net zero, two decades later than the summit’s target, in 2070. India is the world’s fourth-biggest carbon emitter. But, until now, it has not announced a plan to reach net zero. Modi was the only representative from BRICS in attendance at the summit.
Pressure from activists Outside of the conference, famous youth climate activist Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of “pretending to take our future seriously.” “Change is not going to come from inside there,” Thunberg said, “We say no more blah-blah-blah.”
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Pledge to end deforestation by 2030
Over 200 world leaders have promised to not only end but reverse deforestation by 2030. One signatory of note is Brazil, which has had stretches of the Amazon rainforest cut down. The pledge includes almost US$19.2bn in public and private funds.
Johnson, who is hosting the global meeting in Glasgow, said “more leaders than ever before” “We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests,” he said – and “end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian”.
Bold moves from Columbia
Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, took this ambitious pledge one step further by announcing that Columbia would commit to protecting 30% of its territory by 2022, eight years ahead of schedule.
The pledge to curb methane emissions by 30%
Over 100 countries have pledged to curb methane emissions by 30% by 2030. This is the first conference in recent years to hold an event specifically regarding methane. 15 of the world’s largest emitters signed up.
“Today’s launch of the Global Methane Pledge is also critical to keeping 1.5C alive. I am proud that COP has played host to a historic pledge which will play a vital role in limiting up to 0.2 degrees of warming across the next decade,” says COP26 President Alok Sharma.
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The government and private sector come together to pledge billions
Both the government and private sector have pledged billions in cash to support these pledges. Among the private sector was Bezos Earth Fund, which promised $2 billion (€1.72 billion) to tackle climate change via landscape restoration.