COP26 closes. After two weeks, the most anticipated meeting of the last two years closes today in Glasgow. The Scottish city has hosted the 26th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations on Climate Change (COP). The governments of all the countries of the world, as well as companies, organizations, scientists and citizens, have not come together in a similar event since the summit that took place in Madrid in December 2019.
The COP that could not be held in 2020 due to the pandemic is closing at the gates of 2022 with homework still undone. There are many issues that have been debated and numerous agreements reached, but the expectations that all humanity had on this meeting were greater and the need for agreements to be reached is urgent. Agreements were needed that would allow compliance with the Paris agreement (COP21, of 2015) not to be a chimera, but a realistic objective capable of being achieved after completing a common, fair and ambitious roadmap.
From Glasgow we can get some positive headlines, the most notable is the agreement to end deforestation by 2030. With its shadows, this agreement is historic for bringing together more than 135 signatory nations of the world (more than 90% of the world’s forest cover) who commit to ending in less than a decade one of the main environmental problems global scale. Particularly noteworthy, on the one hand, are Brazil, for being the country that hosts 60% of the largest tropical forest in the world, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The three most relevant states where the most important tropical forests in the world are located. And, on the other hand, Russia and Canada stand out, for being the two largest countries in the world, and home to practically all of the planet’s boreal forests.
Another point to mention is the agreement of the 30% reduction in methane emissions by 2030. The initiative of the European Union and the United States has achieved that more than 100 nations assume this commitment (these add up to 70% of global emissions). Commitment that neither China, nor India nor Russia have wanted to assume for their economies. Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that, although it is less abundant in the atmosphere than CO2, contributes more to the greenhouse effect per molecule than CO2 itself. This gas has its main sources of emission, outside of natural processes, in the agricultural and livestock industry (rice and beef especially), in waste management (landfills) and the energy sector.
The third great battle of the summit – lost battle – has been taken by Coal. Only a small number of just over 40 countries have signed the commitment to reduce the use of coal. It is signed by important coal consuming countries such as Poland, Vietnam, Chile and Germany. But other important consumers and exporters of coal such as China, Russia, India, the US and Australia have been left out.
It could be concluded that, more of the same in Glasgow, high need to agree, all the eyes of the world on the subject, but the same dynamics as always. Among the countries that pollute the most and those that export and produce the most combustion raw materials, the brakes on the transition are on. It is a matter of time before they stop pressing the brake. What seems to be clear is that, by then, not having opposition to transit will be of little use, the problems, unfortunately, will be others.
Aitor Mingo Bilbao
MSc Cities and Sustainability