Report from the UN COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland

Report from the UN COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland

By David Turcotte


David Turcotte, a UMass Lowell Research Professor and a member of the steering committee of the University’s Climate Change Initiative, attended the recent COP26 conference in Scotland and shared this report:

The feelings are mixed about the commitments and decisions coming out of the United Nations (UN) COP26 Climate Conference in Scotland. Most countries have set long term goals to achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2030 to 2050. At COP21 in Paris, on December 12, 2015, 196 parties, including the United States adopted what is known as the Paris Agreement in which all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius, because of grave risks of ice cap melting, sea level rising and extreme weather events.

Many are pleased that over 100 countries, including the United States agreed to cut emissions from Methane by at least 1/3 by 2030. A pact was also signed to prevent further deforestation by 2030, which is important as trees absorb global warming CO2 emissions. In addition, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero a group of 450 banks, insurers and asset managers led by Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney former head of the Bank of England pledged $130 trillion to help transition the global economy to clean energy.

Despite these encouraging commitments, the UN and other scientists and climate activists contend that existing commitments are inadequate to keep global temperature from increasing beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius and below 2 degrees Celsius. The UN Emissions Gap Report 2021 released on October 26, 2021states that new national climate pledges combined with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century, which is well above the goals of the Paris climate agreement and would lead to drastic changes in the global climate.

There has been considerable tension between developed and developing countries because in 2009 at the COP in Copenhagen, developed countries committed to pay developing countries $100 billion annually to help these countries pay for the damages and loss caused by climate change and adaptation of the impacts, as well as support their transition to a clean economy. Most developing countries believe that developed countries are responsible for producing most CO2 emissions and the effects of global warming, but developing countries are disproportionally impacted.

Former President Barack Obama made a big splash here on Monday and Tuesday, especially with delegates in their twenties who are strong advocates for action to avert climate change. Obama spoke directly to these young delegates encouraging them to continue their vocal efforts to pressure governments to take more aggression action to reduce CO2 emissions. He also spoke on Tuesday to a group of delegates from island states who are disproportionately feeling the effects of rising sea levels that threaten their existence. In his speech, Obama coined these island states ‘the canaries in the mines of climate change,” warning the rest of the globe on the real dangers of rising CO2 emissions.

Negotiations among countries are scheduled to conclude on Friday and many participants and observers believe that whatever agreement is reach will likely fall short of what is needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, many observers were pleased when China and the United States surprisingly announced that they will work together to reduce climate change emissions. Consequently, some delegates and observers are hopeful that this agreement will provide momentum on the negotiations to finalize a more robust COP26 agreement.