Written by Pooran Desai (Founder of OnePlanet) and Niamh James (Researcher)
This year’s COP26 climate summit was billed as the last chance for world leaders to put plans into action to limit the effects of climate change. There were some wins, but the momentous turn of events we were hoping for did not materialise.
It’s been just over a week since the United Nations climate conference ended in Glasgow. At OnePlanet we have used this time to let the outcomes of the summit sink in. We have reflected on what has happened and discussed together what we feel needs to happen moving forward.
Good COP: the positives
At the end of COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact was created with the intention to keep the objectives of the Paris Agreement alive and limit global temperatures rising above 1.5°C. The pact was signed by 197 countries and was the first COP document to include a commitment to ‘phase down’ the use of coal, one of the most damaging sources of carbon emissions. Leaders from more than 100 countries pledged to stop deforestation by 2030. One hundred nations also signed up to a scheme that would cut 30% of methane emissions by 2030 which will be key to deterring temperature rise.
During the two weeks of COP26, the world saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to demand greater climate action from their governments. These protests put pressure on world leaders to deliver more as Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, said ‘we have heard from children and young people this week from Scotland and around the globe, it is not enough, and we must do more.’
Bad COP: the negatives
At OnePlanet we were ultimately underwhelmed by the results of COP26. A last-minute change of the ‘phase out’ of coal to the ‘phase down’ did not help. This was much to the disappointment of Alok Sharma, head of the UK Climate Leadership, who wanted this year’s COP to ‘consign coal to history.’
The Glasgow Climate Pact didn’t recognise the role of nature-based solutions, such as reforestation, regenerative agriculture and restoring wetlands, in decreasing the effects of climate change. Instead, the document only noted ‘the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems.’ Although nature-based solutions cannot solve climate change on their own, they are an excellent way to remove carbon from the atmosphere whilst providing other benefits such as reducing flood risk, preventing greenhouse gas emissions, regenerating our soils and increasing biodiversity.
As a team, we discussed what we believe is going to achieve meaningful change in the face of climate change moving forward. Of course there needs to be a rapid phasing out of fossil fuels. Subsidies should be redirected to decentralising the grid by funding local renewable energy projects and retraining the fossil fuel workforce in green jobs.
A plane ticket to attend COP26 from London was three times cheaper than taking a train but would emit an estimated five times the amount of carbon. Private single-passenger car use is also very polluting. This highlighted in our team the need for public transport to be made more accessible and efficient so everyone can transition away from highly polluting forms of transport.
Frontline activism will be an important tool to keep communicating to governments the wants and needs of its citizens and putting pressure on them to take action. It brings together people from all walks of life to work collaboratively towards a common goal. Climate change activism has also been shown to help tackle eco-anxiety because it enables people to overcome feelings of powerlessness.
Our #AdaptRegenerate mission sets out to adapt our cities and regions to the effects of climate change in a way which regenerates the living systems on which we depend. We believe that action will be most successful from the local level. Plans need to be created collaboratively and tailored to each specific area to make them most effective. Communities can then share their achievements with others so that we all learn from each other and tackle the climate crisis collectively. See how our technology can support this transition at our webinar in partnership with the Connected Places Catapult.