COP26: It's time to stand on the right side of history

Now that COP26, the biggest environmental conference of our time, has come to an end, we thought we would take some time to summarise some of the key promises made by world leaders in an effort to prevent warming from going above the critical 1.5-degree temperature increase. 

Simon Kofe, foreign minister of Tuvalu, set the scene, standing in water during his address, illustrating the dangers that climate change poses for small island nations. Meanwhile, back in Glasgow, streets were shut down with protestors while leaders from all over the world promised to make changes. 

The conference was designed to deliver on 4 key goals which we have used to summarise the outcomes. 

Goal 1: Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach 

US President Joe Biden started his address by stating that the 1.5c target is within our reach if countries came together and unified their efforts. He hinted at the largest ever environmental package to help with climate change. 

Meanwhile, former US President Barack Obama encouraged young people to not lose their voice, and that they have more at stake in this than anyone else. Watch key moments from his address here

Significantly the US also rejoined the High Ambition Coalition, which former President Trump removed them from, the group of developed and developing nations ratifying the 1.5c target of the Paris agreement. 

Goal 2: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats

Several world leaders signed a Declaration on Forest and Land agreeing to end deforestation. This is significant given the images of deforestation in the Amazon that were shown around the world at the same time that the devastating forest fires from Australia were happening earlier in 2020. 

The UK, EU and US signed a new partnership with South Africa to help to accelerate the decarbonisation of the electricity system and shift away from fossil fuel use. South Africa previously powered their nation with over 85% of fossil fuels

Goal 3: Mobilise finance

A key theme of COP26 was how existing finance mechanisms could be used in alternative ways. Boris Johnson emphasised that there needs to be financing for innovative new methods of producing energy. This was emphasised by Sir David Attenborough who criticised fossil fuel burning and called for a new industrial revolution powered by sustainable innovation. Watch more from David Attenborough here

Over 20 countries (including New Zealand) and financial institutions, including the US, UK, Denmark, Costa Rica, and the European Investment Bank, committed to stop financing on fossil fuels abroad, and instead redirect that spending into clean energy. 

Goal 4: Work together to deliver

Many significant alliances were formed during the COP26 conference. One of the most significant being the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’. This group have committed to phasing out the use of coal worldwide, with the International Energy Agency describing the move as “extremely encouraging”. 

Most importantly, the youth who lead the climate marches and the cries for change were heard. National climate education pledges were also made by 23 countries, including net-zero schools and putting climate ‘at the heart’ of national curriculums.

The UK announced its draft ’Sustainability and Climate Change’ strategy to help provide young people with the skills required to drive the future of climate action.

For all the news from COP26 click here