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Curbing Climate Change: COP26

Article by: Kandhalvi M. Asaali, Rad Lem-ew Vince B. Balisong, and Alyanna Ysabelle A. Faustino


Graphics by: Guinevere Rocel N. Rocamora


To promote environmental protection and amplify the call of climate scientists to stand up against climate change, The New Builder looks back on the highlights of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), held from October 31 to November 13 in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom


COP26 is the 26th annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an environmental treaty collectively signed by 154 states in 1992. Back then, the UNFCCC brought world leaders together to resolve risks that pose harm to the climate system. The organization decided to hold an annual conference, inviting countries to discuss their environmental circumstances as well as to suggest plausible solutions to these critical issues. 


The annual meeting was then officially called the Conference of Parties (COP) and the first summit was held in Berlin, Germany back in 1995. For this year’s conference, the delegates mainly talked about keeping the 1.5ºC target within reach and reaching global net-zero emissions by the mid-century, targets which revolve around the Paris Agreement.  


Learning the new accord


Last 2015, the Paris Agreement, an international climate treaty with the goal of cutting global emissions to reduce global warming, was adopted during the COP21 due to the devastating effects of climate change, such as drought, heatwaves, intensified storms, and rising sea levels. This led to the Paris agreement adopting a clause that sought to maintain the increase of global temperatures below 2.0ºC, preferably 1.5ºC.


COP26 delegates significantly discussed the 1.5ºC target under their radar, believing that the conference should be the decisive moment and the final chance to make a difference in saving the planet. 


The Glasgow Climate Pact was then made, stating that carbon emissions should be cut by 45 percent by 2030 to maintain the 1.5ºC ambition. The protocol paved way for world leaders to acknowledge the phasedown of coal-burning after 26 years. 


The Glasgow Pact also called for countries to raise ambitions and make new commitments by the end of 2022. Chile, Poland, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, and 18 other countries officially made new commitments to phase-down coal burning and ensure a clean power in the future. 


Under the Glasgow Climate Pact, countries are urged to strengthen their nationally determined contributions, the heart of the Paris Agreement, and enforce greater deals to offset carbon emissions. Side agreements include the eradication of deforestation and more importantly the cutting of funds to fossil fuels with public money by the end of 2022.  


The Paris rulebook was also discussed wherein countries are encouraged to protect their ecological community and construct systems that are deemed beneficial to the environment and the welfare of the people. Developed nations should provide support to developing ones – particularly third-world countries. 


Contributing to environmental protection


Keeping up with the demand for rapid industrialization and urbanization with little regard for environmental sustainability, vulnerable countries such as the Philippines, have higher exposure to climate threats. Rising sea levels, droughts, and tropical cyclones continue to intensify due to the rise in global temperature.


Hence, the 19-person delegation led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III pushed for greater climate funding pledges and deeper emission cuts from rich nations during the COP26 summit. 


Dominguez said that the Philippines expected the COP26 to be a catalyst for concrete action plans, and not just for discussion. Therefore, the delegates presented a Sustainable Finance Roadmap at COP26, a document that was launched in Manila last October 20. The roadmap showed detailed plans on financing climate-conscious investments and national development projects for the Philippines. However, the delegation has not specified a specific amount of climate finance the country needs. 


In 2009, the Copenhagen Accord was signed and set to be achieved by 2020, promising to raise $100 billion annually for developing countries to help them with their mitigation efforts. However, the Accord was deemed unsuccessful, environmental activists stated that it was insufficient —  given the worsening climate impacts and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, during COP26, climate-vulnerable countries like the Philippines demanded double the amount and pushing for the fulfillment of this commitment in the succeeding years.


Towards the end of the conference's informal stocktaking session, Director Albert Magalang of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Climate Change Division made an intervention on behalf of the Philippines and, by extension, developing countries. He stated that risk management is the only viable solution to the climate crisis and that emerging countries should be permitted to avoid prospective emissions by assisting them in transitioning to climate-friendly technologies before to contributing to the global climate problem further.


Director Magalang emphasized the need of financing in acquiring technology necessary for transformation. “Avoidance is a legitimate technical action in the risk management continuum which will be cost-effective for all of us in the long run in this agreement,” he said.

 

He added that greenhouse gas reduction and climate change adaptation are not the ultimate aims, but rather sustainable development is. 


The Philippines was also one of 141 nations that signed the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which aimed to conserve, protect, and sustainably manage and restore forests and other terrestrial ecosystems. The signatories account for 91 percent of the world's forest cover, making the announcement one of the most significant commitments made during the conference. In addition, the Philippines was among the 197 countries that sought to turn the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support. 


Calling for action against climate change


The COP26 gave the delegates an opportunity to report on their country’s current progress and commitments as they were encouraged to take further effort in response to the world’s climate justice. 


In summary, consensus major agreements were made during the conference, namely to keep the 1.5ºC target within reach, secure global net-zero by mid-century, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilize finance, and work together to deliver the Paris Agreement. 


Though the countries considered the Paris Rule Book as a win during the conference, they fell short on how nations can all commit in meeting the 1.5oC target of average rise in global temperatures and phasing out coal in all countries, which must not be put off in the coming years.


COP26 is not just a one-time event where world leaders make surprise announcements and flowery speeches. Words won’t solve the climate crisis. Actions are what we need to see to change the ending for the planet now,” Atty. Angela Ibay, Head of Climate and Energy Programme at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said.

The 27th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or the COP27, will be held in Egypt later this year.

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