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It's now almost a week since COP26 ended and as the dust settles, it's time to take a look at what came out of COP26. It was billed as a vital meeting to chart humanity's path towards a zero carbon future. But did it succeed? Not exactly, but it wasn't a failure either. Here's why:

Ending deforestation
Over 100 nations, including Brazil (home to a large proportion of the Amazon rainforest) and Russia (with over 20% of the world's forests), agreed to reverse deforestation  by 2030.

Cutting methane
105 countries, including the US and EU signed up to the 'Global Methane Pledge', promising to cut their emissions of methane by 30% (compared with 2020 levels) by 2030.    Methane is a greenhouse gas, around 84 times more potent in its warming effects than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.  It is responsible for about 30% of all global warming to date.  The planned reductions will come mostly from tackling methane leaks from fossil fuel operations.  However, major emitters like Russia, China and India have not signed up.

Coal to be 'phased down'
Over 40 countries have pledged to end using coal, the most high-emitting of fossil fuels.  These include Canada, Poland, Indonesia and Vietnam.  The smaller economies have agreed to phase out coal by the 2030s, whilst the larger economies have pledged to do so during the 2040s.  However, some of the biggest emitters, like the USA, Australia, India and China failed to make this commitment.  There was considerable controversy over the changing of a word in the final COP26 agreement, whereby the phrase 'phase out of coal' was altered to read 'phase down of unabated coal', giving coal-producing countries the opportunity to continue with business as usual.  But others have hailed it as a victory, saying that the explicit inclusion of coal 

Overseas fossil fuel development
Twenty countries, including the UK and USA agreed to end the funding of fossil fuel development overseas by the end of 2022, with the estimated $8 billion per year in savings used to invest in renewable energy solutions instead.

$100 billion a year for developing countries to fight climate change
A previous pledge to provide $100 billion per year to developing countries to assist them in combatting climate change.  This was a target initially set to be met in 2020.  After COP26, the UK government thinks it will finally be met in 2023.  However, this amount is still thought by many experts to be inadequate to deal with the challenges developing countries face as a result of climate change.

The USA is back!
The USA rejoined the 'High Ambition Coalition' of countries, which aim to limit global temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-Industrial levels.  As the planet's second biggest emitter after China, and is also the world's biggest economy.

The integration of climate change education
A group of countries, including the UK, has pledged to make climate change a feature in their education systems, ensuring that the next generation of young people grow up knowing about climate change and the ways we can stop it from happening.  In the UK, climate change education will be integrated into the Curriculum from 2023.

Nature's value recognised
Protecting and restoring nature, and the importance of nature-based solutions to climate change were all; recognised at COP26.  45 governments, led by the UK, have pledged to increase their efforts to protect nature and to shift to more sustainable farming.

New emissions cuts to come every year
Importantly, countries will be expected to put forward fresh emissions cuts on an annual basis from now on.  At COP27, which will take place in Egypt in November 2022, the world can expect - and in the meantime should be demanding - that our leaders deliver fresh pledges to further limit their countries' emissions, taking us closer to the 1.5C goal.

More support for change
People came to Glasgow to make sure their voices were heard by the world's leaders.  Increasing numbers of people, both young and old, are now wanting to see real change being made to the way we live our lives, so that we can move away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

Still a long way to go
So there were definite positives that came out of COP26.  Yes, we are still on track for 2.4C of warming by 2100 - massively exceeding the 1.5C target.  But before COP26, the world was on track for 3.7C of warming, so that's quite a reduction.  What's more, the goal of limiting increases to 1.5C is still there.  And most scientists are now in agreement that it's the upper limit of where we need to get to.
 

Photo courtesy of COP26.

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