We covered the highlights, we covered the pledges – but what do we have to say about this year’s COP? It was a mixed bag.
At the beginning of every environmental conference, we feel a large sense of togetherness and hope that things are finally going to change. But for COP26 – that sense was multiplied a thousand times over. Opening speeches by Sir David Attenborough, Prince Charles, and short films painted a bleak future – but only if we fail to take dramatic action. All hope is not lost, but it will take a lot of work to undo what we have done. World leaders seemed to get the message loud and clear, and proceeded to make huge pledges like “Ending deforestation by 2030” and “Ending investment in foreign fossil fuel projects”. Even for smaller pledges like “Near-zero steel emissions by 2030”, they were still more clear and hopeful than vague “carbon neutral by 2050” promises.
It seemed like world leaders were taking steps to actually address the crisis for what it is – a crisis. However, as the days went by, the spoonfuls of sugar were soon intermixed with spoonfuls of salt. Fighting climate change is expensive, wasteful in some people’s eyes (“we have all this coal, why not use it?”) – which lead some countries to back down from their promises, back track on wording, and ultimately – create backdoors for excuses. Indonesia back tracked on their promise to end deforestation by 2030 because it “wasn’t fair” to their economy, and India pushed for changing the phrase “Phase out coal” to “Phase down coal” in the final Glasgow Pact. Activists soon lost faith in the conference, and protests littered the globe against leaders’ empty promises.
We would be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed in how COP26 turned out – but we also can’t call it a failure. Never before have so many world leaders come together to discuss the future in terms of the climate and made pacts, treaties, and promises to the scale of COP26. Even if the only good thing to come out of the conference is the end to deforestation – it’s hard to call it a failure. We don’t think what has come out of COP26 will save the world by any means, but we are definitely better off for it.
For us: we are big believers in positive, incremental change – because like any habit, that’s how real change is made. Quitting something cold-turkey is hard, but by doing things little by little (as my mom always says), you can achieve great things. Fighting a changing climate is only different in that we don’t have time to make excuses, back out, or fail to push for change. COP26 may not have been the silver bullet we all hoped it would be in saving the world, but it was definitely a start.