Two weeks of the UN Climate Change conference COP26 were filled with meetings lasting across midnights and heated discussions among country groups on amending and replacing words, brackets, and commas in decision texts. But do these minute changes impact a layperson?
The UNFCCC mandate (along with its Subsidiary bodies) looks after intergovernmental negotiations to create documents with agreed actions on topics like Adaptation, Loss and damage, climate finance, agriculture, and innovation, ultimately to mitigate climate change impacts. Ideally, all national delegations take these agreed-upon action points back to their home countries, where they induce them into their NDCs (Nationally determined contributions) and ultimately into legislation to impact every citizen. And an efficient forum for these parties to discuss, compromise, and negotiate these potential policies is the Conference of Parties (COP). Whether or not the agreed texts and pledges make an impact hugely depends on their specificity and pragmatically.
Here we scrutinise what went well and what went wrong at this decisive COP26 and how it will affect us as:
A detailed overlook is provided for each.
To wrap it in a nutshell
Every life is deeply interlinked with climate change, and hence, intergovernmental decisions do impact everyone. The key to success in this strife is to bring all these decisions and commitments on the ground. Two key factors are potent to bring this to possibility:
i) Political will - following the trajectory of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees will also benefit the economy and overall growth of the country. If the decision-makers do not understand and implement accordingly, the citizens of the respective country must remind them about it. Youth all over the world have been playing a critical role in putting that pressure.
ii) International Pressure on a country: Although there are no "binding" tasks that these conferences can obligate on countries, seeing the reputation of their own country at risk can pull them into action. Thus, even though certain declarations (ex. BOGA (beyond oil and gas alliance which seek[s] to deliver a managed and transition away from oil and gas production") might seem to have only a few pioneers and honest actors. Still, they have that capacity to attract colossal impact and hence, must be supported and appreciated hugely.
Just three years ago at COP24 in Katowice, Saudi Arabia, the US had fought off efforts to "welcome" the findings of the IPCC special report. The world was still considering 2-degree goals, and topics like Adaptation, Loss, and damage fund were rare to hear. The rulebook of the Paris Agreement was incomplete. Net Zero commitments and stronger NDCs still lacked major polluters...
Now, the Glasgow text puts the IPCC's findings front and center, under the first subheading, "science and urgency." It "recognizes" that the impacts of climate change will be "much lower" at 1.5C compared with 2C and "resolves to pursue efforts" to stay under the lower limit. The rulebook is complete, and the world has seen more substantial commitments and ambitions, with around 90 percent of the global economy being covered by net-zero obligations.
So, the progress is unarguable. Although the projections are still menacing, an exponential bend is what we can and are working towards. We have proved to do the same across some sectors in the past few years. With efforts from all those whose lives are affected (businessmen, researchers, urban citizens, vulnerable communities, and Youth along with the political leaders), this will be possible!
Future Thought Leaders is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of rising Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of Illuminem.
Vedant Kulkarni holds a multi faceted expertise at Climate Policy and Negotiation Advising. Coming from a background in HR (Consultant), Partnerships (Director) and Business Consulting (Coach), he craftily applies his knowledge of persuasion, analysis and implementation in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation while he represents one of the UNFCCC constituencies officially at COP26 and onwards.