The Failings of the COP 26
By: Andrea Pantazi
As this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (or the COP26) has come and gone, many are left wondering whether the summit will lead to real policy change and renewed hope in the face of a global climate crisis.
197 countries were represented this November in Glasgow, at the first meeting since the Paris Agreement where leaders were expected to enhance their commitments to limit global warming. In order to divert the planet’s trajectory towards a fiery and doomed future, it was necessary to make strides at this summit to limit fossil fuel use and become more sustainable.
However, these goals were ultimately not realized. Particularly, leaders failed to settle on an agreement to accelerate the phasing out of coal use, and to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the coming years.
There were some fragile wins at the COP26, with many countries at least trying to become more sustainable than they had been in previous years. However, these recent agreements were met with disappointing events afterwards. As Biden rejoins the Paris Agreement and performs speeches promising to “build back better”, he simultaneously supports the oil and gas industries. Days after the COP26, the White House approved the lease of 78 million acres of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico “in what’s been billed as the largest offshore oil and gas auction in U.S. history” (Newburger, 2021). Light policy change and new goals made at the COP26 prove to be overshadowed by larger failures such as these. Countries such as the US create the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, however their promises to improve their sustainability prove to be empty.
The consequences of these actions are felt deeply not by the Presidents and Prime Ministers making the decisions at these summits, but by marginalized populations, such as indigenous peoples and those of small islands off the coasts of Asia and South America. With rising temperatures, comes a direct attack on their precious resources and biodiversity.
Pressure from these populations was displayed in Glasgow at the COP26, as people from around the world marched the streets to demand action from their leaders. As their lands are being swallowed by rising sea levels, their people are left with no support from global leaders to try to combat this rising threat. Countries such as Puerto Rico and Myanmar, listed on the Global Climate Risk Index, experience increasingly horrific weather events which currently endanger their citizens and have already caused extraordinary damage to their communities. As the UN comes together to combat this rising threat, the human rights of peoples living in these endangered zones should be put at the forefront of the discussions taking place.
More privileged countries such as the US are not feeling these effects at this level yet, however it is just a matter of time until rising temperatures and sea levels become unbearable threats.
Hope comes with the next conference which is held in Egypt in November of 2022, where leaders will be joining again to discuss how to limit climate change, this time in an environmental setting already struggling to survive scorching temperatures.
Milman, O. (2021, January 20). Biden returns us to Paris climate accord hours after becoming president. The Guardian. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/20/paris-climate-accord-joe-biden-returns-us.
Newburger, E. (2021, November 16). What the COP26 climate conference really accomplished. CNBC. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/16/un-cop26-climate-summit-what-was-accomplished.html.