As the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, concluded last week, it’s worth looking back to get a sense of what world leaders accomplished. Here are some of the high and low points from the two-week event.
Leaders from 110 nations signed a pledge promising to eliminate deforestation by 2030. With a budget of around $20 billion, signatories not only pledged to halt deforestation but also to take steps to reverse past forest loss.
The U.S., the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Russia, Italy, and Japan are some of the many countries that signed the pledge. Interestingly, Brazil did as well—even though never-ending deforestation appears to happen to the Amazon each year.
It remains to be seen whether signatories and especially nations like Brazil will honor the pledge they signed.
Phasing out of fossil fuels
Twenty major countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Switzerland, and New Zealand, promised to stop paying for overseas oil, gas, and coal projects by 2022. While that’s a step in the right direction, some climate experts fear that they’ll simply use the agreement as an excuse to harvest more fossil fuels domestically.
If these nations truly want to move towards sustainability, they should replace the energy that came from abroad with sustainable domestic sources.
Whereas most people expect politicians to make empty promises, activists are always there to push them and demand better. And, outside COP26, tens of thousands of climate activists were there to hold leaders accountable and press for more.
From Greta Thunberg to Alexandria Villaseñor, young activists from across the world are fed up with empty promises and a failure to take meaningful steps towards combating the climate crisis. Their messages show that if we want progress to occur, we need to fight for it.
Many environmentalists criticized the fact that world leaders and representatives arrived at the conference by private jets. Although COP26 organizers promised that they would plant enough trees to make the event net-zero, it still sent the wrong message to many and highlighted one of the principal problems of the current climate crisis.
It’s the world’s wealthiest who contribute the most to climate change, but those same people rarely feel the harmful effects of it.
The COP26 menu has also come under criticism, as more than half of it featured dishes that contained meat or dairy. As animal agriculture is one of the biggest and dirtiest industries, one would think that the world’s largest climate conference would take steps to provide more sustainable food.
Fossil fuel representation
While fossil fuel executives and employees hold some of the biggest blame for the climate crisis, it didn’t stop them from receiving spots at the conference. More than just having a few representatives there, the fossil fuel industry sent at least 503 of their own representatives to the event, making it the biggest delegation there.
In the end, COP26 serves as a Rorschach test. If you think that world leaders are doing all they can and have the planet’s best interests at heart, the event will appear to be a success. However, if you agree with climate activists, you’ll see it as nothing more than another set of soon-to-be-broken promises.
The long-term impacts from the event, positive and otherwise, remain to be seen.