What happened at COP26?
COP26 Daily Reports
Day 1 - World Leaders’ Summit (Part 1)
Following the ‘soft launch’ opening plenary yesterday, as well as the closing ceremony of the Conference of Youth (COY16), which had resulted in the publication of a Global Youth Statement, the COP got underway today. The opening ceremony and speeches from world leaders kicked off of the two-day World Leaders’ Summit. Representatives from all over the world gave opening remarks and stated their aims and priorities for the coming two weeks. Many world leaders, including those from Barbados, Fiji, Jamaica and others, highlighted the grave threat of climate change to their nations’ and peoples’ survival. Several public figures spoke at the opening ceremony including David Attenborough, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and the Queen.
The major announcement that surfaced today was the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, a pledge by over 100 Parties (including Brazil and Indonesia) to halt deforestation by 2030. The devil will be in the details for this announcement though, and Ecologi’s Impact team will dissect the declaration in full, in the coming days.
Further announcements from today’s opening discussions included India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the country’s intention to become net zero by 2070, to many people’s disappointment. In another disappointment, a letter from President Xi Jinping of China to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reaffirmed China’s commitment to its current pledges, but gave no further advancement of their ambitions.
On the ground in Glasgow, Crista Buznea and Sam Jackson from the Ecologi team caught up with friends from Force of Nature and Sky. Sam was also interviewed by Network 10, an Australian news broadcaster, and the Ecologi team also caught up with our team of Ecologi-branded PediCabs, who will be roaming around the city centre this week, providing a pedal-powered, carbon-free taxi service to COP attendees.
Day 2 - World Leaders’ Summit (Part 2)
The second day of COP began, and the second and final day of the World Leaders’ Summit got underway. New pledges came through today. In one initiative led by the USA and EU, over 90 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, an agreement to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030 (compared to a 2020 baseline). Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos (Amazon) announced a $2 billion USD fund to restore nature.
Leaders from the Global South continued to stress the urgency of the negative climate impacts which are already affecting their countries – with the Prime Minister of Costa Rica (rightly) updating that “if world leaders were CEOs, they would all be fired for failing to deliver results.” Keith C. Rowley, PM of Trinidad and Tobago, noted that loss and damage is already a reality.
There are movements on the annual $100 billion USD which had previously been pledged (but not delivered) by the Global North to the Global South for mitigation and adaptation – with Denmark’s PM pledging that his country will commit 1% of it, and US Climate Envoy John Kerry predicting that the $100 billion USD target will be met by 2022.
Protestors marched outside the Blue Zone as the sun set, sending a message to global leaders to ‘End Climate Betrayal’. The protest was escorted by an enormous police presence with hundreds of officers blocking off roads by the River Clyde.
Max Phillips and Sam Jackson returned to the Green Zone, and Max caught up with representatives of Sport Positive, Microsoft, Unilever, Sainsbury’s, NatWest, Sky, and GSK.The team also met with friends from One Tree Planted, Force of Nature, Ecologi’s Climate Committee), and OLIO, and spent some time chatting to the team at Museums For Climate Action.
Day 3 - Finance Day
Following the closure of the World Leaders’ Summit, we are now following the daily themes listed in the Presidency Programme. The theme for today’s negotiations and activities is Finance, so the key questions that arose today were related to things like carbon markets, and financial pledges for mitigation and adaptation.
The big news from the conference today was that over 20 countries are signing up to an agreement which will see them divest from fossil fuels overseas from 2022. This has the potential to be a huge victory for climate action – but it seems there will be some exemptions and crucial to the success of the pledge is what these are, and how they are applied.
On the ground, Sam Jackson and Crista Buznea caught up with the team from Enviral, as well as our trusty pedal-powered tricycles. Today’s activity included Isaias Hernandez (@QueerBrownVegan) roaming the city with the PediCabs, speaking to people on the streets about their feelings from the opening days of COP, and about climate change more generally. We’ll have the final video ready later this week, and we can’t wait for you to see it.
Climate activists here in Glasgow are becoming increasingly frustrated with world leaders and their hypocrisy and inaction over emissions. The COP is also coming under increasing scrutiny for being exclusive, as this eye-opening thread by activist Alexandria Villaseñor explains. As Villaseñor explains, exclusivity within the COP – in particular the Blue Zone – is appearing across racist and ableist lines.
Day 4 - Energy Day
The International Energy Agency (IEA) noted today that the current pledges from COP26 – if implemented by all countries – would keep the world to a 1.8ºC temperature rise by the end of the century. This is still well over the 1.5ºC from Paris, but is a massive improvement on what had come before, since current policies have us on track for closer to 2.7ºC warming. The IEA also updated today that solar energy is now the cheapest electricity source in history.
Countries of the OECD have agreed to phase out coal in the 2030s, with some other countries following shortly behind (totalling 40 Parties, but not including China, who are big investors in coal). Meanwhile, the Guardian is reporting that half the world’s fossil fuel assets could be worthless by 2036, citing a study by the University of Exeter.
The COP itself continues to be criticised for its lack of inclusivity, with Greta Thunberg branding it a ‘Global North greenwash festival’. This sentiment was also expressed by the climate network, 350.org. The Ecologi team on the ground have felt this too, and speaking with our friends and partners around Glasgow, there is a strong feeling of exclusion in the air. Activists such as Vanessa Nakate have also spoken out on this, in particular with relation to the way they are being treated in the Blue Zone.
Elsewhere, in the New York Times Climate Hub, Nakate, as well as Malala Yousafzai and Leah Thomas, discussed climate justice and the importance of the education of girls and empowerment of women in climate action.
The feeling around the city today was quite subdued. There are marches planned for both tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, and although there were some protests in the city today, including Extinction Rebellion appearing at JP Morgan’s office in the city centre, there was less of a presence on the ground today.
Our Climate Impact Manager, Sam Jackson was out and about again today – firstly having a quick interview with WaterBear for their podcast, The Bear Hug, and then spending some time with the team over at Force of Nature, including taking part in their Call Your Mother campaign. In the evening, the whole Ecologi team, including our CEO Elliot Coad, got together with the incredible Million Tree Pledge for an evening celebrating our partnership.
Day 5 - Youth and Public Empowerment
Today, thousands of people turned out to the Fridays For Future school strike. Our team on the ground joined the march from Kelvingrove Park, to walk alongside the youth who are raising their voices to the powerful, to demand meaningful action on climate.
The team, including our CEO Elliot Coad, also took the opportunity today for another visit in the Green Zone. Elliot also took part in various interviews today, including for our friends at Enviral’s podcast, Shifting the Narrative. The team also caught up with WWF Youth Ambassadors at their stand in the Green Zone. Our Head of Marketing, Crista Buznea, also featured on edie’s podcast, COP26 Covered.
In the evening, the team shared dinner locally and headed to the EXTREME Hangout – a floating venue on the River Clyde – as guests of the WaterBear Network team, to watch some screenings, listen to live music, and watch the announcement of the winner of the environmental photographer of the year competition.
Negotiations today covered finance and adaptation, and are said to have been tricky. But the real focus today was not on negotiators, and instead was on the youth. As well as the strike, activists walked out of Alok Sharma’s youth event, called out inaction from politicians as a cause of climate anxiety, and of course, gave speeches to the crowd of thousands of climate strikers on the streets of Glasgow.
Elsewhere today, a new United Nations NDC Synthesis Report was published, finding that following the newly updated ‘NDCs’ (Nationally Determined Contributions) submitted by countries who are signed up to the Paris Agreement, emissions (excluding land-use change and forestry) are on track to rise 13.7% from 2010 levels by 2030. The data in the report suggests that the NDCs have us tracking just beneath the IPCC’s Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) 2-4.5, a projection which implies plateaued emissions around 2050, and warming in the region of 2.7ºC by century’s end. It’s important to note though that the ambition of NDCs will continue to increase every 5 years, and that the exclusion of land-use change and forestry may mean warming does not follow this projection if we succeed in restoring natural carbon sinks, like our forests and oceans.
Day 6 - Nature
Whilst negotiators discuss restoring nature today, there is another march planned on the streets of Glasgow – this time, for the Global Day of Action, a movement supported by the WWF, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB, among many others. The 250 planned activities for the Global Day of Action are taking place all over the world.
Elsewhere, financial organisations representing $87 trillion in assets have today vowed to stop financing deforestation. Five major UK supermarkets also pledged to halve the food system’s environmental impact by 2030.
Discussions about how successful COP has been so far are still swirling, with some activists declaring it an out-and-out failure, and other thinkers responding that writing off the COP already is a dangerous move. It’s certainly true that there’s a long way to go with regard to key areas of the negotiations, including Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which governs the operation of carbon markets. However, there are positive noises coming out of the Blue Zone, with negotiators quietly confident that breakthroughs will be made at this COP.
It certainly feels on the ground like there’s been a colossal failure of inclusion throughout the COP – from the wheelchair accessibility issues experienced by Israeli minister Karrine Elharrar at the beginning of the week, to racism and transphobia experienced by many activists on the streets, to exclusion and profiling taking place inside the Blue Zone. That’s not to mention the exclusivity of the event caused by vaccine inequity and eye-watering accommodation costs that we’ve mentioned before.
The Ecologi team were hard at work again today: Crista Buznea was out on the streets of Glasgow shooting with our partners Enviral, and joined marchers in the Global Day of Action. Sam Jackson and Max Phillips took a day to catch up, and to workshop on our new Ecologi Zero product with our CEO Elliot Coad. The team linked up with Climate Committee members for a final dinner all together before the parting of ways tomorrow.
Day 7 - Rest Day
Sunday 7th November is a rest day for negotiators, meaning that there were few updates from the Blue Zone today. Protests continued to take place around the city, and activities continued to take place in a much quieter Green Zone today.
Max Phillips, Elliot Coad and our friends from the Ecologi Climate Committee all departed today, leaving Sam Jackson and Crista Buznea in Glasgow for a final few days, where we’ll continue to meet partners and friends, shoot on our reforestation sites, and be present for the early part of COP’s second week.
Day 8 - Adaptation, Loss and Damage
Today, negotiations recommenced in the Blue Zone, on the topic of adaptation, loss and damage – and this means the focus returned to the topic of finance payments from the Global North to the Global South. Many countries were pushing for increased payments for mitigation and adaptation, but rich countries have been vocally pushing back on this. The UK has however pledged £290 million to support the Global South, particularly nations of Asia and the Pacific.
Parties from the Global South gave powerful speeches about the impact of climate change on their countries, including Simon Kofe of Tuvalu delivering his contribution whilst knee-deep in seawater. The Gambian environment minister also stressed that poorer countries face disaster unless the pledged $100 billion adaptation finance is delivered by the Global North. Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley likened expecting countries in the Global South to pay to adapt to and mitigate against climate change, when it has largely been caused by countries in the Global North, to her “throwing garbage into your yard and telling you to pay to clean it up – even if it means you can’t pay your mortgage, you can’t buy food. You can’t do anything because you have to spend all your money on the garbage I threw into your yard.”
Former US President Barack Obama appeared, to give a speech including a message to youth – however the arrangement of the speech was criticised by some activists, as many of the youth the President was speaking to were specifically excluded from entering the Blue Zone to hear it. In the speech, Obama touched on how nations have failed to be ambitious enough, criticised the previous President for pulling out of the Paris Agreement, and stressed the need for states to follow through with their pledges, which are not “self-executing”. His message to youth, it turns out, was to “stay angry” on climate change.
Another big story from today was the revelation that the fossil fuel industry has more delegates attending COP26 than any individual country in attendance.
On the ground, the remaining Ecologi team met up with our friends from Enviral, for a day with Alice Aedy shooting on the streets of Glasgow.
Day 9 - Gender // Science & Innovation
Early today, a draft summary of “possible elements identified by Parties for inclusion” in the COP26 agreement was published. The draft was roundly considered weak, with no mention of phasing out fossil fuels – however this is not the final document (nor even a draft of the text), and much could still change.
Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission announced that the Commission would provide €100 million toward the Adaptation Fund. Discussions today also continued on methane and other short-lived pollutants.
Data from the Climate Action Tracker suggests that the new 2030 NDCs submitted by Parties for COP26 will have us hit 2.4ºC warming by 2100, contrasting the more cheerful projections of 1.8ºC and 1.9ºC that we’ve seen earlier this week. The same analysis concludes that current policies (not just targets) have us on track for 2.7ºC warming by century’s end.
The Met Office also reported their findings today that just 2 degrees of warming will lead to 1 billion people globally suffering from extreme heat. This extreme heat would render even a healthy person’s homeostasis system to be inadequate; sweating wouldn’t keep the body cool enough to survive. Scarily, they predict that a healthy person sitting in the shade, in these extreme temperatures, would die after just six hours.
The UK health secretaries, as well as 46 other countries, pledged to make health services net zero by 2050. This would be a substantial reduction in greenhouse gases – if the world’s health services were a country they would be the 5th largest emitter. Wales has the even more ambitious goal of making the entire public sector net zero by 2030.
Later in the day it was announced that the UK government has pledged £165 million to help progress gender equality while tackling climate change. Kathryn Pharr, Senior Policy Advisor on International Climate Action at WaterAid, said, “While we welcome the UK Government’s pledge, sadly it is just a drop in the ocean of funding needed to support the millions of women and girls across the globe who are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.”
Today, the Ecologi team were with Enviral once more, for a very special day shooting video with the Future Forest Company (FFC) on our Brisbane Mains site. The FFC team gave Crista and Sam a tour of the site, including showing us some of the trees our community have planted over the past few months. We also brought Kristy Drutman (@browngirl_green) along, shooting photographs and planting trees as we went.
It’s the Ecologi team’s last day in Glasgow today – we’ll still be bringing you lots of updates remotely for the rest of the week though!
Day 10 - Transport
Today was transport day at COP26, and many online expressed dismay that the focus was almost exclusively on electric vehicles (EVs), ignoring the far greater environmental (and health and social) impacts of zero- or low-carbon methods of transport like walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the US House of Representatives) was called out by journalist Abby Martin for recently voting for increased funding to the US military, which is a bigger polluter than 140 countries combined, and which is exempt from US emissions targets.
The big news from today came in the evening, when the USA and China announced a very rare joint statement declaring their cooperation in working to achieve the 1.5ºC temperature goals set by the Paris Agreement. This is significant, because China and the USA are the two current highest emitting countries (China top, USA second) and also two of the highest emitting parties historically (USA top, China third – with the EU in second). They also aren’t known for their warm diplomatic cooperation with one another, so this announcement has been roundly, if cautiously, welcomed.
The joint statement itself, titled US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s, is relatively low on detail, but does crucially refer to phasing down coal – which China is particularly reliant on – and also states a goal from the USA to reach 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2035. As well as the substance of the agreement, the announcement gives a declaration of intent by two large emitters, and will send a message to other countries who have been dragging their feet on climate change.
Day 11 - Cities, Regions & Built Environment
Today, Costa Rica and Denmark launched the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance, with founding members including France, Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Greenland, Quebec, California and New Zealand. These parties commit to phasing out the licensing of new oil and gas projects – but it’s important to note that some of these signatories are relatively small oil producers, and many of the world’s largest have not signed on. South Africa, for example, reiterated that coal will remain a key part of the country’s energy mix for many years to come.
A report by The Scotsman used official data about COP26’s carbon footprint to conclude that this COP is the most polluting COP ever – with over 102,500 tCO2e of emissions produced in the running of the Glasgow event. The UK government has committed to making the event carbon neutral through verified emissions reductions.
Meanwhile, Richie Merzian, who was formerly one of Australia’s COP negotiators, gave a savage assessment of the country’s (lack of) commitment to the environment, saying the Australian delegation “came to COP26 to get away with doing as little as possible”.
Negotiators are gearing up for a very long few days as COP26 draws to a close. Rhetoric from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and COP President Alok Sharma continues to push negotiators to make further progress in the rush to the finish line. Previous COPs have been similar, and these last-minute negotiations can be crucial for future climate action. For example, in Durban at COP17, negotiators closed the week with a marathon 60-hour negotiation session which ultimately resulted in the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which directly led to the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.