A round-up of what world leaders have been negotiating at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.

By Lizzy Zarrello

For nearly two weeks, world leaders from over 200 countries have been discussing the future of our environment at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Now that COP26 is starting to come to a close, negotiators will be revealing their strategies and steps to reduce global warming.

Below is a compilation of the most significant takeaways from COP26 thus far:

After signing The Paris Agreement in 2015, countries pledged to update and strengthen their emission targets every five years. Countries were asked to make short-term and long-term goals as to how to reach global net-zero emissions. With COP26 being the first official deadline for governments to do so, we can see that although some countries have made positive changes, many have not made any improved commitments. Countries like Russia, the fifth highest emitter of greenhouse gasses, still haven’t taken the pledge. While China and India, the first and fourth highest emitters, are expected to increase emissions despite having signed the agreement. 

  1. The COP26 draft agreement is the first to specifically aim to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” However, it’s not entirely decided this will remain in the final agreement due to many negotiating countries like Saudi Arabia challenging the proposal. Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud explained in his speech, “It is imperative that we recognize the diversity of climate solutions and the importance of emissions reduction as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, without any bias towards or against any particular source of energy.”
  2. The U.K. is serving as President of COP26 this year and is pushing for manufacturers and investors of the combustion engine to “work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero-emission globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets.” Many eminent car industry enterprises have thus far signed the agreement, including Ford, General Motors, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. Along with U.S. cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas, and Atlanta. However, as it stands, many big car industry companies like Volkswagen, Toyota, and Nissan have refused to sign.
  3.  The U.S. and China have agreed to strengthen their shared ambition to decrease methane emissions. The declaration also stated the two superpowers would work together and “meet regularly to address the climate crisis and advance the multilateral process, focusing on enhancing concrete actions in this decade.”
  4. The U.K. is asking wealthy countries to collectively raise $100 billion every year to support developing countries. Although many countries made this pledge in 2019, myriad countries, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Greece, fell short. This will give them another opportunity to meet the pledge.

Although COP26 is a step in the right direction, many youth climate activists have critiqued its effectiveness. In her speech at the Fridays for Future rally in Glasgow, Eighteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg stated, “This is not a conference. This is now a Global North greenwash festival.” Now that COP26 is wrapping up, agreements and declarations will be settled. All that’s left will be for government officials to take action.