You may have seen an abbreviation that’s a mix of numbers and letters when scrolling through your social media over the last three weeks. We’re here to answer all your questions about COP26. If you’re looking for actionable next steps due to the conclusion of COP26, this blog is also for you.
While the meeting in Glasgow didn't yield everything we hoped for, it did give us some promising moments. Yet, we have a lot of ground to cover to strive for better at COP27.
What is COP26?
COP26 is an event to eradicate climate change and check in our progress. The event is hosted by the United Nations and includes 200+ world leaders. Most of these leaders are from countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP stands for Conference of the Parties. This group has met 26 times, which is what the 26 stands for. The treaty was first signed in 1994.
COP26 is an event to eradicate climate change and check in our progress. The event is hosted by the United Nations and includes 200+ world leaders.
The conference was supposed to take place in 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19. To host the conference this year, the United Nations offered a mix of in-person and virtual events for world leaders.
COP25 was hosted in 2019 in Madrid, Spain. The next COP (COP27) will take place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in 2022.
Why is this conference important?
The last decade was the warmest decade that has ever been recorded. This is a big problem. As our planet warms, our ice caps melt, sea levels rise, and we see an increase in extreme weather patterns. Think wildfires, hurricanes, heatwaves and floods.
The warming of the earth is due to fossil fuel emissions. Greenhouse gasses trap heat from gases escaping the earth’s atmosphere. When the heat is unable to escape, it warms the planet.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas that has affected global warming. Our CO2 emissions are mostly from coal and oil. Due to these extra greenhouse gases,our planet has warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius since the 19th century.
This conference is important because it gives world leaders a chance to address climate change, create accountability measures, and take action on a world level.
What are some good things that came from COP26?
Two of the main contributors of global warming, the US and China, made an agreement to cut down on their emissions this decade. While it’s great to see two major governments make an agreement like this, the specifics of the plan and goal for cutting down emissions were vague. A definitive, comprehensive plan would have given us more faith in implementation and action.
More than 100 countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030. Our forests are integral to protecting our climate as they combat global warming by absorbing carbon and releasing oxygen. The deforestation plan also appears to lack specifics on implementation but is a hopeful goal for our planet.
India pledged to reduce its total fossil fuel use by half by the year 2030. They’ve also given themselves a deadline to be a “net-zero” emissions country by 2070. This would be a huge feat in any timeframe given India’s dependency on coal. Yet, the planet can’t afford for countries to set such far-off goals in years like 2070.
The Biden administration pushed for a 30% cut to methane, another greenhouse gas, by 2030. 100 countries agreed to contribute to this major reduction.
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would devote $2.8 million dollars ($2 million pounds) to structural inequalities. This was a step towards acknowledging that major greenhouse gas emitting countries need to pay reparations to the countries most affected by climate change. She called on other countries to do the same.
What Are Some Things We Wish Would’ve Come Out of COP26?
We need to see less talk and more action. One of the closing documents on COP26’s website says they’ve reached a consensus on key actions to address climate change. This statement is, unfortunately, untrue. Lofty promises made without accountability and tangible actions will not help us address climate change. Action, accountability, and radical changes are the only ways to prevent the 1.5 degree Celsius increase. We need countries to do more than meet once a year and have conversations about climate change. We need widespread action on a global scale and accountability for those who don’t take action.
We wish we would’ve seen wealthier economies support poorer countries as they transition from coal and other fossil fuels to sustainable alternatives. Wealthy countries have fallen short of aiding poorer countries by tens of billions of dollars annually compared to what they originally promised. For real action, we need accountability and guidelines around what counts as sustainable global aid, and which countries have to pay how much. The United States, in particular, fell especially short. One example is the country only contributed $6.6 billion in 2018. If some of these countries with fewer resources don’t receive the support from wealthier ones, they’ll have an increasingly difficult to impossible time transitioning to sustainable energy alternatives.
We also need to see wealthier countries pay reparations to countries that have experienced the worst repercussions of climate change. At COP26, many countries called for more accountability and guidelines around when and how wealthier, greenhouse gas emitting countries compensate them for the disappearance of national territory, ecosystems, and cultures. Pressure has been increasing for this to happen over the years as young people around the world also ask their governments to take accountability for this, rather than just the countries affected.
We’d also like to share that we believe there should be a more diverse group of individuals in these major conversations about climate change. The individuals with the most power in these conversations were older, male, and often white. This is problematic given that younger generations tend to be the most concerned about climate change and would be more likely to implement and push for radical climate change goals. Further, those pushing for the most radical changes at COP26 were younger women, often of color.
What Can I Do To Take Action Now?
To start, we recommend you consider your location and privilege. Then take action. We know it can be intimidating, but if you’re a member of a major greenhouse gas emitting country, you have even more power to make a difference. The US, Canada, Japan, and much of Western Europe account for 12% of the population but are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gases over the last 170 years. While a large majority of those greenhouse gases are emitted by some major corporations (more on this later), individual consumers can make a difference.
Making switches to sustainable, zero-waste, or minimalist lifestyles can reduce your own carbon footprint. You can consider making larger decisions, like purchasing an electric car. Or you can consider starting small, like buying one or two products a month from your local zero waste store, or Lochtree. Check out our blog post that includes ten ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle to get started.
Next, talk to your government, local and federal. Participate in local elections, especially when climate change initiatives are on the ballot. Write to your local and federal government officials letting them know you want to see drastic changes to help slow global warming. Be sure to mention that you want to see changes now.
Hold the main carbon emitters accountable. While individual actions can add up, and are necessary, we need to hold the main carbon emitters accountable and ensure we aren’t supporting them financially. In 2017, The Carbon Disclosure Project found that 100 companies are responsible for 70% of the carbon emissions since 1998. The first step is to know who they are. The second step is to ensure you’re not supporting them with your spending moving forward. The third step is to check if you’re supporting them in investment accounts, like your 401K. You can request that your accounts don’t support major carbon emitters. If you do have some funds that need to be moved, support sustainable initiatives!
Last, check out carbon offsetting, either as an individual or a business. If you’re about to take a trip, or doing work that requires you to have a larger carbon footprint than others, you can make donations to carbon offsetting organizations to reduce your overall carbon footprint.
What is Lochtree Doing to Take Action?
We want to emphasize that the majority of greenhouse gases are emitted from a handful of major corporations housed in a handful of countries. At Lochtree, we believe in social and sustainable responsibility. We were founded on the principle of taking action to reduce climate change. We will continue to operate on that principle, even after we’ve overcome the immediate threat of global warming.
You, and all the generations to come to deserve a better earth than the one we were given. We fight for that earth in a couple of ways.
- We will continue to provide helpful, educational information on how to reduce your carbon footprint and minimize your waste. We know that transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle can be intimidating. We’re here to guide you throughout the process, answer questions, and explore innovations together.
- We will continue to expand the products that we offer to give our customers plenty of opportunities to make sustainable decisions and minimize their waste.
We will continue to donate to non-profit organizations that are working to fight global warming. Two of the organizations that we support are One Tree Planted and One Percent for the Planet. To learn more about our partners, please see our Impact page.
- We will continue to be transparent about where we are at in reducing our own carbon footprint. We will communicate achieved and missed milestones within our organization. This will afford us the opportunity to be as sustainable and transparent as possible.
We also always encourage feedback and suggestions on how we can improve the ways we’re fighting climate change. If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments.