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A COP26 update: what happened?

COP26 is now over after two weeks of negotiations and discussions in Glasgow. Extended by a couple of days, the weekend saw conversations continue on how pledges made by world leaders will need to be executed. This particular COP was important as it was viewed as one of the last opportunities for the 1.5 degree target to be achieved.

For this reason, it was also viewed as an important opportunity for mobilisation by organisations, charities and climate activists globally.

The last two weeks have seen the strengthening of the climate movement as millions have connected to strategise on how to put pressure on leaders to act in a way that protects human life, animals and the planet in general.

Week one

Days 1-3: 120 leaders arrived in Glasgow for the World Leaders Summit, with discussions being held on how best to tackle the climate crisis.

Key events from these days included:
• India pledged to reach Net Zero by 2070
• The UK Prime minister announced a funding package as part of the UK’s Clean, Green initiative

• The Scottish government made an announcement that they will be granting £1M to go towards loss and damage.

world animal day • World leaders also ‘pledged’ to end all deforestation by 2030
• The EU and US agreed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030
• Concerns were raised about the accessibility of the conference due to the lack of wheelchair use facilities, exclusion of youth activists and vaccine inequity.

Days 3- 6

• A commitment was made by 20 countries to end overseas oil, gas and coal finance by the end of 2022
• 190 countries and organisations signed up to phase out coal, not build new stations and phase out existing ones
• An announcement was made that Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), will mobilise $130 trillion of private capital for Net Zero. However, this has been labelled as greenwashing.

world animal day • Despite all of these announcements, the UNFCCC’s NDC analysis shows that we are on target for a 13.7% increase in emissions by 2030.
• Throughout these days of discussion, some leaders began to backtrack on the pledges that had made headlines just days before, such as the deforestation pledge.

Global Day of Action for Climate Justice
This important day saw the COP26 Coalition help with the organisation of events all over the world, with millions of people taking a stand for climate justice.

It was believed that over 100,000 people marching on the streets of Glasgow and that London saw 20,000 and there were 300 events around the globe.

UK-based climate activists were quick to point out that we cannot truly commit to 1.5 targets, whilst subsidising the fossil fuel industries with millions as well as planning to start drilling for oil by the Shetland Islands. Movements such as ‘Paid to pollute’ and ‘stop Cambo’ were seen throughout the marches.

world animal day Naturewatch Foundation attended the peaceful London march with messaging about the biodiversity emergency that the climate crisis will continue to drive.

Chris Packham spoke out praising everyone that had taken the time to set their alarms to take to the streets and remind world leaders that the eyes of the world are upon them.

Week two
With most of the world leaders gone, their negotiators stepped up to discuss how the pledges could be implemented.

Days 7-10
 -Concerns were raised by scientists about UN biodiversity target

-A whole host of businesses made a joint commitment to be ‘nature positive’ by 2030, food retailers pledged to halve their environmental impact by 2030.

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-A UK Presidency event on the Just Rural Transition and a commitment of £65m support for the programme to help developing countries move towards more sustainable methods of agriculture and food production.

-More concerns were raised about the amount of fossil fuel lobbyists allowed to participate in negotiations- more than those from countries already being affected by climate change, such as Tuvalu (an island state already sinking due to climate change).

Days 10-12
-Within this time period, we saw the release of the first draft of the cover text, which is the main political signal coming out of COP26. Whilst there were some good points included on fossil fuel phase out and the need for Parties to submit updated targets by the end of next year, it is weak in many other ways.

There is a lack of detail on finance and how this is delivered, especially on adaptation and Loss and Damage. There’s also no guarantee that the more positive elements of the text will survive.

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-The importance of nature for tackling climate change is mentioned in the mitigation section of the text, which is welcome.

However, this should more explicitly mention nature as a key way of meeting 1.5°C, and include a call for countries to embed nature in their Nationally Determined Contributions and other national plans.

New research from the Climate Action Tracker shows that the new pledges made at COP26 are sending us towards 2.4C warming.

A 2.4 degree increase means that many communities, habitats and species will not survive and could lead to an increase in species extinction.

So does this mean COP26 was a cop out?

The negotiations did not wrap up as they should have, meaning that they spilled over onto the weekend after the final date of COP.

Despite this, on the last day of the newly extended COP26, hundreds of delegates left in anger about the lack of climate action taken and joined the protests outside.

But why?

It would seem that many agreements were made and that we should be closer to dealing with the mammoth issue of climate change but assessing the success of these events is not an easy feat.

The Glasgow Climate Act is the new piece of legislation that Parties are now signing.

But just days ago, it was stronger than the pledges that remain now.

Key concerns include:
• The change in the term ‘phase out’ to ‘phase down’ in reference to fossil fuel usage in the EU, China, India and the US.

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• The main loss and damage discussions and plans have been shifted to next year, which means that nations already being affected by rising sea levels, crop failures and extreme weather are not being financially supported as they need to be and whole islands could be lost.
• Pledges made do not support the need to remain at 1.5°C degree of warming.

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Although COP26 saw some important changes, it failed on some of the greatest points. We hope that next year, stronger goals will be made by countries as pledges renew at COP27.

It was very empowering to stand alongside other organisations fighting for a climate secure world and to see that hundreds of thousands of people across the UK stood together to march for the same thing- climate justice.

We also hope that all of the innovation, hope and positive action we saw demonstrated in the millions of people on the Global Day of Action stays alive and acts as a buoy for the 1.5°C target we so desperately need to meet for all living beings.

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