A lot has been happening at COP26 as it heads towards its conclusion at the end of this week. Friday 5 November was 'focussed on youth activities'Youth Day' and saw thousands of young people, their teachers and parents taking to the streets of Glasgow in a protest originally organised by Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future organisation.
Education ministers from a series of countries put forward proposals to ensure that education about climate change was included in their school curricula. Among them was UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who announced that climate change would be included in our Curriculum from 2023 onwards. This is something that YPTE, along with youth organisations like Teach the Future have been demanding for the last few years. For schools that don't want to wait that long, our lesson plan suite on climate change is available to download free of charge. Over 13,000 teachers downloaded it in the last year. Feel free to join them!
On Monday, former US President Barack Obama took to the stage to deliver a speech to delegates. While President, he ensured that the US entered into the Paris agreement on climate change, which the US recently rejoined under President Joe Biden, having withdrawn while Donald Trump was President.
Mr Obama gave advice to the many young activists who were attending COP26, or marching in the streets of Glasgow, saying, "To all the young people out there - I want you to stay angry. I want you to stay frustrated.... But channel that anger. Harness that frustration. Keep pushing harder and harder for more and more. Because that's what's required to meet that challenge. Gird yourself for a marathon, not a sprint."
After initial optimism, doubts are now setting in about whether COP26 can really deliver the emissions cuts the world needs to keep temperature increases down to safe levels, which scientists suggest should be 1.5C or less by 2100 when compared to pre-Industrial levels. Yesterday, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) released a report that analysed global governments' policies, rather than their pledges, for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Looked at this way, projected warming for the planet would be 2.4C by 2100 - way above the stated aims of COP26 and the 1.5C increase set by the Paris agreement.
Last week, it appeared that pledges for net zero tabled by countries across the globe would result in temperature increases of 1.8C by 2100. CAT's new research highlights the reality of actual policies and shows us that the world still has an awful long way to go. The big questions now are how much can be achieved on this in the final days of COP26 and whether countries will agree to meet again in a year's time to improve upon their pledges and policies.
We are heading in the right direction. CAT's analysis following 2015's Paris agreement showed that the world was heading for 3.6C of warming. But can we get to where we need to be quickly enough? A lot will hang on the negotiations that take place in the final days of COP26 in Glasgow.
Photo by Tim Dennell