Cop26 Diary: Work together and these pledges won't be 'more blah blah blah'

Cop26 Diary: Work together and these pledges won't be 'more blah blah blah'

UCC's Clara Felberbauer: It's been a very busy week, and what has been achieved is significant: Picture: Dan Linehan COP26, COP 26

A group of local children, primary-school age, accompanied by their parents, holding up hand-drawn signs. A young girl draws a sign for me, pencil on a notebook, an eye. 

The eyes of the world indeed, are on Glasgow during these two weeks. "We should not be here", a sign reads, "Unf*k our future!", another. It expresses what many young people that have come out feel: fear for their future, and in many places, the present, and the knowledge that something needs to happen now. 

"Change is possible, Covid showed us that," a young man from the US tells me.

A series of speakers take their turn on the stage. The variety of their contributions illustrate how large, wide-reaching and complex the issue of climate change is. 

Inequalities experienced in other social issues are also reflected in attempts to address climate change: poorer communities are more excluded and more strongly affected; globally, the less industrialised regions of the world in the global south, with the least CO2 emissions, are most strongly impacted by climate change. Last to speak, Greta Thunberg takes the stage, criticising the lack of real impact of previous Cops and pledges.

The scene inside the Cop26 conference venue at the Scottish Event Centre is quite different: Hustling and bustling to the point of being nearly overwhelming, but also very much activity, discussions, negotiations and business. 

There are about 2,000 official country delegates, party members and observers from NGOs, from United Nations Climate Networks to Universities,  are trying to find their way to the side events, meetings and discussions. There is a good amount of youth representation, too, for the first time in the history of Cop events.

Those involved in the negotiations have a bit over one week remaining to agree on what will be a historic decision for better or worse.

It's been a very busy week, and what has been achieved is significant: The combined effect of the commitment by India to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 and the pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, signed by over 100 countries (including Ireland) were both significant. 

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas emitted from oil and gas fields, from landfilled rubbish and from agriculture. The good news is that, as it only stays in the atmosphere for a relatively short time, the warming process can be slowed quite quickly and effectively by reducing methane. 

Similar pledges have been made to phase out coal, and to stop deforestation. Significant contributions have been made towards the previously agreed commitment of $100bn (€86.5bn) per year from wealthier countries in climate financing to aid poorer countries to support their efforts to reduce emissions.

Despite these achievements, the race for the necessary greenhouse gas reductions to limit global warming to 1.5C  will be a close one. The latest estimates are that the combined effect of the pledges may get us to 1.8C (quite a shift from the 2.7C reported before Cop26). 

Of course these pledges need to be translated into national legislation, in a fair way, and then implemented. For this to work out, we need to think globally, and act locally.

Although Ireland is a small country, our national greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest in Europe. If the countries in similar situations work on this too, we can achieve a significant amount in greenhouse gas reductions.

And we need both aspects,  communities and policies, to work towards this together.

If this doesn't happen, Cop26 will remain just, as Greta Thunberg put it, more 'blah blah blah'.

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