Each year, members of the United Nations gather for the Conference of the Parties (“COP”) to address global climate change. The conference draws policymakers, scientists, and multi-sector representations from around the world who collaborate to develop strategies and legislation that will help to keep the planet’s warming under 1.5° Celsius, part of the Paris Climate Agreement adopted in 2015. This year, the 26th annual conference was held in Glasgow from October 31st through November. 13th. While many topics were addressed throughout the two-week event, here are some of the most important outcomes.
1. Enforcement Remains a Challenge
Keeping global warming within a 1.5° change is an ambitious goal. It would require high-emissions territories such as China, the U.S., and European nations to enact changes quickly. While the goal is technically feasible, this conference highlighted the fact that factors such as lack of political buy-in and no consistent, agreed-upon means of enforcement are among the most pressing barriers currently.
2. Climate Issues Are Getting Increased Visibility
On a positive note, it appears the global focus on environmental issues continues to gain momentum. While climate change had a much narrower focus just a couple of decades ago, more high-ranking officials from roles outside of environmental positions attended COP26 than ever before. This shift is a sign that more decision makers are beginning to realize the far-reaching implications of climate change. To enact meaningful initiatives, there must be support from all aspects of governments, and the diverse population of attendees suggests we could be heading in the right direction.
3. Fossil Fuels Are Being Phased Out… Slowly
Many existing international climate agreements overlook fossil fuels, despite the fact that they are some of the most important contributors to climate problems. That changed at COP26, when deliberations around fossil fuels took center stage in the conference’s final days. The outcome was the Glasgow Climate Pact, an agreement among more than 20 nations to stop funding most new oil and gas products. Overall, the pact calls for nations to “phase down” their fossil fuel subsidies. There was significant debate around this verbiage, with many calling for stronger language to take a more aggressive stance against fossil fuel projects. Nonetheless, others view the inclusion of the long-neglected subject of fossil fuels as a win.
4. The Private Sector Is Contributing
Another outcome of COP26 is the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. A product of collaboration by some of the world’s largest finance firms, the agreement pledges a $130 trillion investment to align their financing activities to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The pledge represents much-needed support from the private sector, but questions remain about how governments will enforce climate change policies to govern all private sector activities. Skeptics want to see companies walk the talk by backing such agreements up with real actions instead of simply posing as “green champions”.
5. Canada Is Making New Commitments
Canada solidified its place as a champion for combating climate change during COP26. The Canadian government agency Export Development Canada spent $18 billion on fossil fuel support in 2020. With the new agreement to cut support for oil and gas, this contribution will be reduced by at least a third. The nation has also agreed to invest $1 billion to help other countries transition away from coal projects.
During the conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also encouraged countries to agree on an aggressive global carbon tax to cover 60% of global emissions by 2030, instead of the current 20%. This move helped to situate Canada as a leader in carbon pricing initiatives.
Finally, Canada has also pledged to end deforestation by 2030, and will impose an emissions cap in the oil and gas sector to reach net-zero by 2050.
At Quantum Lifecycle, we believe that even small steps to end climate change add up to make a meaningful impact. We do our part by helping organizations across Canada reduce their carbon footprint through reuse and recycling services for IT equipment. Find out more about the products we recycle here.