The Disappointment of COP26: Reviewing the Glasgow Pact

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference which took place this November, 2021, in Glasgow. One of the primary goals of COP26 was to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2℃ by the middle of the 21st century. According to the Paris Climate Agreement, participant nations are also encouraged to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5℃ relative to preindustrial levels by mid century. COP26 was to be the latest installment in this ongoing conversation between world leaders, corporations and intergovernmental committees. Ultimately, COP26 did not present any serious guarantees of reaching the Paris Climate Agreement’s short term or long term goals. COP26 only concluded with ambiguous, unambitious goals.

Ambiguous, Unambitious Goals

Toward the end of the 2 week United Nations Climate Change conference, a meaningful change was made to the wording of the final decision. The phasing out of coal, was changed to the phasing down of coal. The latter wording can be found in the Glasgow Pact document. Sources reveal that this change was first proposed by representatives from India, and garnered support from China. As coal combusts, several airborne pollutants are released, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, particulates and ash. Coal burning is a prominent element climate destabilization, as it contributes to global warming and increasingly acidic oceans. Though COP26 is the first climate agreement to explicitly mention coal, the tentative promise to phase down coal use this century is not assuring.

The Glasgow Pact “emphasizes the need to mobilize climate finance from all sources to reach the level
needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, including significantly increasing
support for developing country Parties, beyond USD 100 billion per year… . As for the US$100 billion per year by 2020 pledge, first proposed in 2009, the Glasgow Pact “notes with deep regret that the goal” has not yet been met, but secures no further progress on this front.

This is a failure to small island and developing nations, who are already feeling the effects of climate change and are predicted to be disproportionately affected due to less resilient economies. Protests outside of COP26 erupted before the final event officially concluded. Hundreds of civil society representatives were dissatisfied with the conclusions reached during the climate convention. Even more frustrations have been articulated online.

COP26 tweet

The 7th subtitle, “Implementation“, makes no explicit commitments

The “implementation” section of the Glasgow pact likewise makes no explicit commitments. Without the implementation of targets, meaningful action can not be achieved. That said, more promises are likewise insufficient answers to immediate to answer immediate concerns for relief and infrastructure investments. COP26 has largely failed small island nations and those with emerging economies in this regard.

COP26: Helping the Least Developed Countries Adapt

coastal city, grass and trees
coastal territory

The Conference of Parties (COP), established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a convention of governmental representatives and scientific experts for discussing climate change. COP26 will be the next COP gathering and will take place in November, 2021. World leaders participating in COP26 will discuss topics ranging from mitigation strategies to extensive economic reforms.

The countries most capable of adapting to climate change are those who have relatively high incomes and low economic vulnerability. These nations are more equipped to deal with climate destabilization than low income countries with high economic vulnerability. This is because higher income nations can afford to invest in net-zero transition projects, adaptation technologies and more resilient infrastructure.

Are Poorer Countries More Affected by Climate Change?

Lower-income nations by contrast have economies that are less capable of investing in green revolutions. Dealing with decreases in crop yields and infrastructure damage as a result of climate change is be more difficult in countries that have vulnerable economies because people in these regions tend to be more dependent on agriculture and other contributions from nature, such as fishing or logging. Increases in adverse weather events or changes in climate also threaten tourism in small island developing states. Under the influence of climate change, the least developed communities are expected to have a harder time rebuilding with limited finances and resources.

COP26 Outcomes

Climate finances are the funds planned to be provided to highly vulnerable nations to aid in addressing climate change and its impacts. Funds like the Green Climate Fund were created as financial support systems that lower income nations could draw from for new initiatives and adaptation. Alternative methods for climate finance include loans, export credits and government donations. The pledged for $100 billion a year (by 2020) for developing nations has been discussed as a central issue since 2009.

COP26 is an opportunity for relatively high income nations to sort out the details of their pending commitments. They are the primary beneficiaries of fossil fuel use, and are therefore liable for the consequences associated with climate destabilization. The territories that make up the Group of 20 (G20) generate more than half of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and make up most of the world’s gross domestic product. These nations then have the greatest responsibility to help support people in highly vulnerable regions and small island states.

Indigo Ag & Corteva Pay US Farmers In Carbon Credit Program

Indigo Agriculture, a Massachusetts-based agricultural technology corporation has teamed up with Corteva Incorporated, a seed and chemical company, on a new production contract project for farmers, “Carbon by Indigo”. Carbon by Indigo is a program that makes registry-issued agriculture carbon credits.

plant crops and soil
Crops

Carbon credit registries track how carbon emitters are performing in efforts to offset their carbon dioxide emissions. Industries usually offset their emissions through agriculture production or reforestation. Crops indirectly reverse the greenhouse effect by capturing and storing carbon dioxide gas in soils. Carbon credits are a system for estimating how much carbon is being sequestered in a given area of land.

Carbon Farming Business Model

The 267 paid growers currently participating in the Carbon by Indigo program must provide data about their growing progress and report crop production. Carbon pulled from the atmosphere by vegetation and soils is purchased by a variety of organizations for so-called carbo credits, which “offset” or cancel out their carbon emissions. This program has created a new opportunity for farmers to make money through carbon credit sales.

The purchase of carbon credits will surely go on to be implemented by organizations-both private and governmental-to achieve carbon neutrality or reduce their carbon footprint in the coming years. Starting in the crop year 2022, farmers in Michigan, New York, Alabama, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Virginia will be able to farm carbon via Carbon by Indigo. Indigo Agriculture announced that it will expand the qualifications for farmers in 28 more states soon. The company believes that nearly 80% of farm acreage in the United States is viable for high-quality carbon farming.

IPBES and IPCC Co-Sponsored Workshop

IPBES and IPCC compare and contrast circles
IPBES and IPCC compare and contrast circles

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have drawn a connection between climate change and biodiversity loss. According to the IPBES-IPCC Workshop Report, climate destabilization intensifies risks to biodiversity.

What Is A Co-Sponsored Workshop?

This workshop report details just how closely linked the habitat and species loss are to our climate crisis. Though the IPCC is a United Nations collective that provides scientific evidence and predictions about climate change – for economic and political reasons- and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an organization for information and policy pertaining to biodiversity, ecosystem conservation and sustainable development, both organizations have interests improving human well-being through sustainability.

Harvard University Will Divest Its $42B From Fossil Fuels

Harvard University, one of the richest and most prestigious colleges in the United States of America, released a statement disclosing that it will end all investments in fossil fuels. According to Harvard’s self-published news update, climate change is a “consequential threat”. Harvard goes on to reference the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. The IPCC’s sixth assessment is its latest report that outlines the physical evidence and environmental tolls of climate change.

students holding divest Harvard sign
students holding divest Harvard sign

To some extent, its apparent that Harvard recognizes the emerging need to decarbonize on an international scale. Earlier this year (2021), Harvard Management Company (HMC) announced that it had already ceased all direct investments in companies that pursued fossil fuels. Harvard admits that HMC has legacy investments that are still indirectly tied up in “private equity funds with holdings in fossil fuel industries”.

According to Harvard, HMC has no interest in renewing these legacy investments once the relevant partnerships end or are liquidated. If Harvard and HMC are in fact serious about being conducive to the transition to the clean energy transition, then they are setting a standard for other institutions and companies to follow.

Beyond HMC’s vow to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within its own operations by July 2023, its also collaborating with the Carbon Disclosure Project, Principles for Responsible Investment, and Climate Action 100+. These organizations all, in some way or another, help manage carbon and fossil fuel outputs from governments and other entities. Students, athletes, and Harvard’s sports attendees have been floating banners that read “Divest Harvard” on them. Tweets from Al Gore, to Environmental expert, Bill McKibben, highlight just how celebrated Harvard’s news about ending new investments is.

Why Should We Reduce the Use of Fossil Fuels

fossil fuels emissions
emissions

New research published in the British scientific journal, Nature, finds that limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Celsius at most) relative to preindustrial averages will require ambitious reductions in fossil fuel use. Researchers used a global energy systems model to determine the amount of fossil fuels that must be be left unextracted for a 50 percent chance of capping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050.

“Unextractable Fossil Fuels In A 1.5 °C World”

By their calculations, close to 60 percent of the globe’s fossil oil and gas reserves, and nearly 90 percent of its coal will have to remain unextracted if humanity is to meet the Paris Climate Agreement‘s goal of limiting global temperature rising to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) relative preindustrial estimates. Fossil fuel use must continue to fall by at least 3 percent each ensuing year until the 2050 deadline.

By employing the TIMES Integrated Assessment Model, researchers were able to determine the sources (conversion, transportation, and distribution) of fossil fuels across various economic sectors. This framework was used to approximate future energy demands in the simulated future scenario. The model depicts 16 different regions with oil reserves and trading networks that connect them. If “very high shares” of fossil fuel reserves that would be considered valuable for trade or energy production remain untouched, this can be considered a loss to the economies that could have used or sold them in the future.

Fossil Fuels Burning

The research team, consisting of Dan Welsby, James Price, Steve Pye & Paul Ekins, state that they’ve underestimated the production changes that are actually required. In other words, the cuts suggested for the energy, transportation, and agriculture sectors posited in the study are likely not ambitious enough. Earlier this year, International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report outlining how greenhouse gas emissions would have to be halted to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) by the year 2050. Accomplishing the feat will require more stringent energy and environmental policies. The most industrialized nations have primary responsibility for cutting emissions.

If developing nations are going to be allowed to continue to produce CO2 and other fossil fuels (and they should), carbon budgets will have to prioritize them, rather than allowing business as usual for the business and countries that have the largest carbon contributions. Nations that have already built resilient economies, including China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation, and Japan are world leaders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Least Developed Countries Group of UNFCCC, the lowest income nations are those countries that have the least capacity to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Therefore, the onus for reducing fossil fuel use falls squarely on the shoulders of those countries which have the highest emission rates.

Greta Thunberg Says Scotland Is Not A World Leader On Climate Change Just Before COP26

Ahead of the COP26 (Monday, November 1st, 2021- Friday, November 12, 2021) BBC interviewed climate activist Greta Thunberg about the upcoming climate change conference which will take place in Glasgow. BBC asked the young environmental activist if she thinks that the conference should take place virtually online or in person; to which she responded that “we get more results when we meet in person… but if its not considered safe, then we have to go for the safest option”. The safest option is of course to refrain from in person contact to limit the spread of COVID-19 cases across populations. Thunberg admits that she is not certain that she will attend COP26 next month, and that her decision hinges on whether or not the event is “safe and democratic”. This likely means that she she wants assurance that participants are fully vaccinated.

Greta Thunberg BBC interview screenshot

World Leaders On Climate Change

BBC then asks Greta Thunberg if Scotland a world leader with respect to climate change progress. In reply, Thunberg essentially says that some countries that have better environmental practices than others, but broadly speaking, there are no countries in the global North who are doing what is needed. Most developed nations have the physical evidence necessary for destabilization climate due to global warming. However, greenhouse gas proliferation is not being sufficiently decreased to meet the recommendations of the Paris Agreement.

In other words, current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are not compatible with limiting global temperature increases at or below 2 degree Celsius (compared to that of preindustrial levels). Thunberg’s comments almost directly counter public statements made by Scottish government, which described its net zero emissions targets as “world leading”. The Scottish government is aiming to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2045, which at least trumps the United States’ target of reaching net zero by 2050. Thunberg concedes that “of course there might be some politicians that are slightly less worse than others…”. In other words, not all policy makers and world leaders are equally yoked on climate progress. Also, progressive goals do not always translate into progressive action. As international parties prepare for COP26 in the coming months, meaningful changes must be implemented in order to secure a more sustainable future.

Greta Thunberg: UK Is Lying About Progress On Climate Change

Greta Thunberg is a prominent 18 year old environmental activist and climate change communicator. The Swedish-born activist is generally well-known for her fearlessly forthright speeches, and her “skolstrejk för klimatet” School Strike for Climate. Greta Thunberg has just made a public video post claiming that the United Kingdom’s (UK) claims about climate change mitigation are lies. If Britain is in fact guilty of “creative carbon accounting”, then its future emissions sanctions could be too lenient.

Greta Thunberg UNICEF video screenshot

Why Greta Thunberg Accuses UK of Lying

Greta Thunberg begins her UNICEF video post by plainly stating that “there is a lie that the UK is a world climate leader and that they have reduced their carbon emissions by 44% since 1944, or whatever”. Thunberg’s post follows an announcement, made by Boris Johnson, that the UK has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions “by about 42 percent on 1990 levels”. British politicians have a long history of proclaiming that the UK is the world’s gold standard with respect to climate change mitigation. This may be partly because the UK is the first country to enact legally permitted reduction targets for carbon emissions. The United Kingdom was also the first country to pass a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions law (2019) to be achieved by 2050.

To paraphrase, Thunberg goes on to say that all emissions have to be included in GHG assessments; otherwise, your carbon emissions count come out to be “much nicer”. Thunberg is suggesting that the UK has not been accounting for all of its emissions, rendering its assessments ultimately inaccurate. Presenting false climate credentials is a serious charge, especially considering the emerging pertinence of climate crisis. Greta Thunberg says that if you include “aviation, shipping, outsourcing, imports of consumption and the burning of biomass, it [emissions reduction statistics] doesn’t really look that good”.

What Is Carbon Accounting?

Carbon accounting is the quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statistics that organizations use to set goals for future reduction targets. Emissions statistics help organizations track their Paris Agreement-compliance. The Paris Agreement is a binding treaty agreement between the 196 parties that volunteered to take part in 2015 at the first United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21. With COP26 (2021) around the corner, Thunberg’s announcement may serve as a warning for us all to be scrupulous of the emission data that organizations and governments report.

UN Experts Will Release Landmark Report On Climate Change

AR6 2021 landmark report with official UN logo

The impacts of climate change are already happening in many parts of the world. Floods in Europe and wildfires in western American states could be a preview of what we can expect from future climatological shifts. The world’s top climate scientists and experts are expected to release a landmark report prior to COP26, which will take place in Glasgow beginning November 1st, 2021.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations environment and climate organization, will conduct the landmark report. Once published, the report is expected to be the most comprehensive and up-to date analysis on the science of global warming since the IPCC’s 2013 report. This latest report will outline large-scale climate action solutions to reduce emissions to limit global warming to about 2 degrees Celsius compared to that of preindustrial levels.

Energy and agriculture sectors have to be the first to institute major changes, particularly in developed countries, such as the United States, China and India. Research conducted by the IPCC confirms that if we can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (compared to that of preindustrial levels), some of the worst effects from climate change can still be avoided, including tipping points. Tipping points are the estimated climatological thresholds which have far-reaching, and in some cases, irreversible results once exceeded.

International Panel On Climate Change

Over 190 states have approved the IPCC’s latest findings. The assessment is supposed to provide international leaders with a premium set of recommendations which are backed by empirical evidence. Therefore, the report will likely include a section for policy makers as well as a section that is a detailed analysis on the physical impacts of climate change.

Agriculture & Food Waste

The fight against climate change may seem daunting, but agriculture may be the best sector to start. Agriculture production is a major part of the climate change issue because of its greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb and reemit heat energy. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone. Some of these gases are emitted as a product of agricultural activity.

Methane comes in multiple forms within agriculture and food production. Livestock ruminant during enteric fermentation-the digestive process by which microbes break down plant materials-produces methane emissions.

Organic agriculture waste like foods radiate so-called ‘landfill gases’, which include both carbon dioxide and methane. LFG’s are a grouping of greenhouse gases released from organic materials in landfills as they decompose. Energy and transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions can also be traced to agricultural origins.

Nitrous oxide is regularly used in fertilizers for agriculture crops.

What Can Individuals Do?

The way that we manage agriculture, food, and waste will determine whether or not we achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. The individual citizen, or consumer, can do their best to eat sustainably. This could entail transitioning to a plant based-diet, shopping locally, buying seasonal foods, and reducing household food waste. Plant-based diets increase the amount of acreage available for human-consumable crops by reducing the demand for animal feed crops. Buying local and in-season foods lessens energy for transporting foods across long distances.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in 2018, more than 42 million tons of food wound up in landfills or combustion centers.

According to United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimations, nearly one-third of the food produced globally ultimately ends up as waste.

Reducing waste can be as simple as tracking the foods or the number of calories that your household regularly consumes between grocery trips. Once you know how much you eat, you can limit the number of perishable foods that you purchase to fit your household’s consumption habits. This simple tip can save consumers money and reduce household methane footprints.

ripe apple, avocados and banana

The way we store fresh fruits and vegetables can determine the rate at which they ripen and how long they ultimately last. For example, certain fruits ripen at a slower rate when stored separately from other foods due to ethylene. Ethylene is produced in multiple fruits, including apples, avocados, bananas, kiwis, peppers, and tomatoes. Ethylene is a natural gas that is the apparent source of the ripening and eventually the spoiling process. As fruits ripen, the amount of ethylene that they emit can increase. This gas not only expedites the ripening rates in the fruits that produce it, but also in nearby fruits. Storing your fruits separately can extend the rate at which they ripen and allow them to last longer.