Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas, and inspiration from across the world that demonstrate how real action can accomplish a positive social impact. With all eyes on the COP26 in Glasgow, we’re taking a look at some of the immediate outcomes and key messages from the first week or so.
Is the end of coal really in sight? One of the big commitments to come out of COP26 is at least 40 countries pledging to phase out the use of coal power. According to sources linked to the conference, this move alone could “shift an estimated $17.8 billion a year in public support out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy transition”, a much-needed boost for the renewable energy industry.
While this news is undoubtedly positive, it should be noted that some of the largest coal users, including Australia, India, China, and the US, did not sign up to this commitment.
Evidently, countries like Australia want to focus on developing technology rather than wiping out industries, so many will be watching to see just what these alternative solutions are.
So while we may not consign coal to history just yet, there are positive signs that it is being phased out, although calls for definite dates are already being made, as time is the critical factor here.
Related: Pull up a comfy seat and watch any of these impactful climate change documentaries for more insight into why this matters.
Another major agreement to come out of the conference from Glasgow was a pledge to cut deforestation and methane emissions. Over 100 countries have committed to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030, and 90 governments, led by the US, have pledged to cut methane emissions by 2030.
The deforestation pledge supports the UN’s SDG to manage forests sustainably; the world has already lost 100 million hectares of forest in just two decades, and the knock-on effect is that delicate ecosystems are being lost, with many species now under the threat of extinction. So action is needed right now.
Reducing methane gases is also essential. Methane is produced mainly from the production of coal, natural gas, and oil, as well as livestock.
According to The Global Carbon Project, the comparative impact of methane on the environment is 25 times more than CO2 over a 100-year period. Again, while the commitments announced are encouraging, it’s worth noting that China and Russia did not join the pledge to reduce methane, both of which are some of the largest producers of the greenhouse gas.
Related: Our list of 33 deforestation facts further background the size of the problem.
Some of the most important voices to be heard at the COP26 are the voices of young people. They are, after all, the ones to inherit the consequences of climate change, and many are looking to hold our current leaders accountable.
Recent data from #YouthStats, supported by the UN, revealed that 73% of surveyed youth say they currently feel the effects of climate change, and only 9% of youth are very confident the world will act quickly enough to address climate change.
Of course, we must acknowledge Greta Thunberg, one of the more prominent young activists over recent years. Just this past weekend, Thunberg led the protest march in Glasgow, which, according to organizers, had a turnout of around 25,000 people.
She has been particularly critical of progress at the COP26 so far, stating that
“The leaders are not doing nothing. They are actively creating loopholes ... to benefit themselves."
It’s not just Thunberg though, young people are demanding action to protect their futures, and many of the events have sought to include the expertise of young climate leaders, with support from the youth climate constituency Youngo.
Related: We have a compile of climate change quotes over here for what others have to say, from scientists through activists and our article full of climate change facts provides research-backed numbers and statistics.
One of the good things to come out of COP26 is that “everyone admits there is a problem.” It sounds a bit basic, but substantial progress would be severely hampered without this alliance of minds.
Evidently, though, there’s an overarching issue that must be solved if we are to see any real success from the UN climate conference, and it starts with the rich world meeting its obligation to developing countries.
There are expectations that poorer nations need to make larger changes than the rich to reduce their greenhouse emissions, but considering many of the rich countries are predominantly responsible for the high levels of pollution, this doesn’t seem a fair deal. This is especially poignant when rich countries broke their ‘totemic’ $100B annual climate pledge with financial promises missed both in 2009 and 2015, no doubt raising tensions further.
As part of the ongoing negotiations, the UK has pledged £290m to help poorer countries, so let’s see if this is the start of something better.
As COP26 takes place, inevitably, there will be criticism. Great Thunberg has called out leaders for only benefiting themselves (mentioned above), and there are also questions being asked about critical groups being excluded from crucial talks. These groups include “academic, climate justice, indigenous and women’s rights organisations,” all of which are noticeably missing from the discussions.
A powerful and poignant interview with indigenous activists reveals just what is missing from the current talks, with the need for us to respect and live in harmony with nature:
“you are the one who can learn to live with the rest of the species. It is not the other species who can learn how to live with humans’.
Further and similar criticism has labeled the conference in Glasgow as one of the “whitest climate conferences in years,” with representatives from the “global south” finding it difficult to attend, due in part to travel restrictions and costly accommodation.
Many countries have only recently been taken off the red list (due to Covid), and so planning to attend hasn’t been straightforward or easy. With many groups underrepresented, there will be less chance for meaningful and balanced discussions.
Sam produces our regular #TRVSTLOVES where she seeks out inspiration, news, and ideas from across the globe that both highlight and celebrate how actions can make for social and environmental change.
Sam is passionate about seeking out small businesses that are implementing remarkable and exciting projects to tackle the climate crisis; she enjoys exploring how their innovation will help change the future of our world.
A degree in English Literature from the University of Southampton has given Sam the research expertise to share and contextualize stories around innovative projects, legislation, and changemakers.