UN COP26: Our Best Last Chance

Written by: Erich

Edited by: Sara

Visual by: Mischka

Perhaps you’ve seen one of those posts on your Instagram or Twitter feed, discussing the most recent climate summit, COP26. It is a topic that has quickly taken over social media— and with good reason, too— as this conference constitutes our last chance to combat climate change. 

COP26, short for the 26th Conference of the Parties, is hosted by the United Nations annually and took place in the Scottish city of Glasgow this year. Running from October 31 to November 12, the summit focused on bringing global parties together with the shared objective of accomplishing the set goals of the Paris Agreement — an international treaty that aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050 — and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

The conference includes over 130 heads of state and government as well as thousands of diplomats, each contributing towards the planning and eventual creation of a new set of targets. These goals focus on the reduction of harmful emissions stemming from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas. If these targets are fulfilled, then disastrous calamities — such as heatwaves, droughts, deadly floods, and wildfires — that come as a consequence of climate change can be avoided. However, there are concerns regarding just how successful this summit will be in achieving its objective of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Powerful countries including Australia, China, India, Iran, and Russia have chosen to snub an international pledge that aims to reduce methane emissions by 30% within the next decade. This is an act that could jeopardize efforts to slow down climate change, for more than one-fourth of global warming can be traced back to anthropogenic sources of methane emissions like landfills, coal mining, and wastewater treatment.

Nevertheless, despite such a setback, the conference has still produced various positive outcomes. For instance, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has announced the country’s pledge for zero emissions by 2060, an impressive feat if accomplished given its position as Africa’s largest oil exporter. Additionally, Russia, despite its refusal to sign the pledge for the reduction of methane emissions, has since pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060. It has even signed the Glasgow declaration, which looks to end deforestation by 2030. With countries committing to such promising goals, there are certainly high expectations to see progressive steps that mirror these commitments within the next few decades. 

The conference even demonstrates much relevance in the Philippines, which has sent its own delegation to the summit, composed of 19 government officials primarily from the Finance and Foreign Affairs Department. Leading the group was Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who many have criticized for his lack of knowledge and experience in attending climate summits. 

Sending such inexperienced delegates is quite risky for the Philippines, especially considering that climate change is “a matter of life and death” for Filipinos, as stated by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Yeb Saño. These are words that seem to be in accordance with the Global Climate Risk Index of Greenwatch, where the Philippines ranks as the fourth country with the largest number of climate change-induced calamities within the past two decades. The two consecutive typhoons, Super Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses that battered the nation, impacting over 4.2 million Filipinos from eight different regions, show the necessity of change within the nation. Now, the pledges formed in COP26 provide nations the opportunity to avoid the recurrence of such an outcome, but action must be taken in order for these commitments to prove effective. As such, it is of vitality that nations and individuals work jointly in fulfilling said commitments. Hopefully, by the time COP27 rolls around, we will all be one step closer to fulfilling our collective objective of preventing climate change.