COP26 didn’t save the world but it helps

COP26 didn’t save the world but it helps

Glasgow was not a disaster after all. Neither was it a ringing success. Hopes had been building that the Conference of Parties would have reached an agreement that would get us near to capping global warming at 1.5°C. That target has been missed. The promises will be delivered in Egypt next year at COP27 at the earliest, if at all. But the ambition to limit the temperature rise 1.5°C is still alive and that is an achievement.

There have been strides forward and the next COP has been brought forward to next year not the usual five year interval.

We need to act quickly.  Climate change is happening not just in developing countries, but here in Europe and in North America.

Like all international meetings, COP26 began trying to negotiate ideals and ended in compromise. That’s always going to be the case when a diversity of nations at different stages of development try to achieve a common goal.

Throughout yesterday afternoon, we have heard delegates from around the world say, “in the spirit of compromise we are able to support the document”. Switzerland summed the view of many countries:

“It is not abnormal that we have a COP text that leaves everyone a little unhappy, but we are afraid people are more than a little unhappy.”

But despite what Guatemala described as a glass half full, delegates agreed the final text yesterday evening.

Overnight on Friday and throughout the two weeks of COP26, significant concerns have been raised about finance. Developing countries want more grants and fewer loans embedded in the $100bn finance promise. Carbon offsets were another issue. Withdrawal from fossil fuels is now mentioned in the agreement, but watered down after protests from India. Reparations for loss and damage didn’t really get resolved. There was not enough money for adaptation to the growing threats from warming, more extreme weather and rising sea levels. An agreement was reached to end deforestation by the end of the decade but that is going to be one of the more difficult promises to meet.

There is much more to this agreement and it will be picked over by pundits and activists in the coming days. We will also see the usual greenwash from politicians hinting, even claiming, that they have saved the world. They have not.

We are a made step forward towards saving the world yesterday but we have a long way to go.

A version of this article was published on Lib Dem Voice last night.  

Alok Sharma argues with delegates
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