Recapping a Thorny COP26

Hi, all.

As you might have seen in the news headlines this week, this year’s UN climate talks, lovingly called COP26, are over as world leaders passed an agreement over the weekend. I’m dedicating most of this week’s post to a Rose-Bud-Thorn themed COP26 recap, so join me on this journey of lukewarm highs and bummer lows:

Roses: (AKA the good-ish things)

  • A global pledge to reduce methane emissions was signed for the first time ever. The fine print says 105 countries (which are responsible for 40% of current emissions) are to cut their methane emissions by 30% by 2030. (This turns out to be only a 12% reduction in total emissions by 2030, but hey, better than nothing, I guess?)
  • 114 countries also agreed to end/reverse deforestation by 2030, including Amazon-covered Brazil. Not cutting down trees is great!
  • Leaders from the US, UK, Japan, and other countries promised to pour more money into the climate financing world, which should help developing countries combat climate change. (Learn more about what climate finance is here.) 

Thorns: (AKA bad/sad/make me mad things)

  • Lackluster CO2 emissions promises: China and Russia pushed back the goal of getting to net zero emissions to from 2060 (from 2050 as outlined in the Paris Agreement of 2015), and India pushed back achieving net zero to 2070.
  • Wishy-washy coal statements: Rather than setting concrete goals to stop using coal (one of the dirtiest fossil fuels), the COP26 agreement simply encourages countries to “phase-out” using coal.
  • As noted last week, fossil fuel industry representatives outnumbered delegates from any other country at the summit. That probably made it hard to take really strong action to stop using fossil fuels. 
  • The consensus among scientists and activists is that the final documents & pledges coming out of the meeting are devastatingly underwhelming and will not keep the world on track to stay below 1.5˚C or even 2˚ of warming, thus keeping us on the fast-track to climate disaster

Buds: (AKA moments of hope)

  • Despite governmental disappointments, the climate movement remains strong and energized. Check out scenes from outside COP26 in Glasgow and what Greta Thunberg is up to now
  • As Mahir Ilgaz points out in an article for, “The challenge is now to make sure that critical climate action happens bigger and faster. Today, as in the past decades, true leadership resides in the climate movement.
  • You can watch an inspiring panel from COP26 about Indigenous resistance to Enbridge Line 3 here.
    • Speaking of which, hundreds of people who fought against Line 3 as water protectors are facing charges in Minnesota. Sign this petition to tell MN to drop the charges. 

So, despite being hyped as the make-it-or-break-it moment for fighting climate change, COP26 was a disappointing affair in the end. Yes, it is good that countries are pledging to emit less, deforest less, and put more money towards climate finance, but the magnitude at which these things are happening is simply not great enough. Luckily, the climate movement is demanding urgency and will continue to push the boundaries of climate action on political fronts. As members of the climate movement pushing for change, we can all contribute to creating a livable future. 

Other things:

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