November 29, 2021
COP26 Summary and our environmental commitments
By Kirsty Barnby
I am writing to summarise and share the main points of COP26 we think are important for eco-conscious travellers and indeed any interested in the process. Therefore, we hope this will give you an informed and balanced perspective.
So what is COP26?
COP26 is the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties. For 25 years world leaders have met annually to try to tackle climate change. Every time, delegates are asked to accelerate action on climate change and commit to more ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The global United Nations climate change summit, COP26 took place in Glasgow in November 2021.
Some have dubbed the event ‘Cash over Profit‘ probably based on the lack of firm commitments made by international corporations and Governments.
The 4 main goals of COP26
1. Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach. To deliver on these stretching targets, countries will need to:
Accelerate the phase-out of coal.
Speed up the switch to electric vehicles.
Encourage investment in renewables.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
Protect and restore ecosystems.
Build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.
3. Mobilise finance
4. Work together to deliver
Finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational).
Accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.
2.4 °C global temperature rise expected without further action
9 official discussion points of COP26
- Mobilising public and private finance.
- Accelerating the transition to clean energy.
- Elevating the voice of young people and demonstrating the critical role of public empowerment.
- Ensuring sustainable land use.
- Adapting to climate hits and addressing the loss and damage.
- Progressing meaningful participation by women and girls.
- Looking at innovative science.
- Driving towards zero-emission transport.
- Promoting environmental action in cities.
12 key points of COP26
- Before COP26, the planet was on course for 2.7 °C of global warming. Based on announcements made during the Conference, experts estimate that we are now on a path to between 1.8 °C and 2.4 °C of warming. Bear in mind that the calculations are based on the heroic assumption that every government in the world will keep their promises.
- The aim is to achieve a 1.5 maximum increase in global temperatures. ‘Keep 1.5 Alive’.
- President of COP26, Alok Sharma, almost tearfully apologised about how the process unfolded at the end when China and India backpedalled.
- After pressure exerted by India and China, the wording of the final deal was watered down to a pledge to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal.
- Ideas were shared about the importance of changing the way we address the problem with new terminologies such as toxic ecosystems and uninhabitable, biodiversity and climate justice.
- Individuals, companies and Governments need to enforce change.
- There is no proof that there are any protocols or procedures in place to substantiate the promises.
- Five companies create a quarter of the world’s emissions. China Coal, Gazprom, Saudi Aramco, National Iranian Oil Company and Exxon Mobil.
- 10 billion people on earth, if all made small changes can make a huge impact.
- Rich nations largely responsible for the climate crisis agreed to double their adaptation finance to $20 billion – by 2025.
- We think we need to change the way we travel; the labelling of food and promoting electric transport.
- Mobilising global finances are what we at Island Spirit consider to be a priority.
The main idea of COP26
The ultimate objective of the Convention is to increase efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 C. Therefore, we must keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The UK COP26 President worked with 200 countries and 30,000 delegates. This includes heads of states in the run-up to the event in Glasgow to agree on the final legal, institutional and administrative agreements each country will be held accountable for. The COP26 then assesses the effects of the measures taken by Parties and the progress made.
Who wasn’t involved in COP26?
Although over 30,000 delegates were involved, four of the major global, environmental influencers were not present. If this were a class register, it’s obvious that the naughtiest students just weren’t present:
- Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, president of the world’s biggest deforesting nation.
- Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of the world’s second-biggest oil pumper.
- Russia’s Vladimir Putin, president of the world’s second-biggest gas producer.
- China’s Xi Jinping, president of the biggest coal consumer and carbon emitter, was also missing. At least he had a sick note owing to the Covid crisis.
Mobilising Global Finances
We have witnessed that cash flow is the problem. For example, Fiji simply can’t afford to adapt to the rising sea levels, stronger storms and degrading reef systems to name but a few. And this is just one of the thousands of developing countries in the world.
Until the environment is valued then there is no incentive to protect it. Why would leaders give up the commodity that earns them money to increase their quality of life?
“Monetisation of environmental impacts describes the effort of expressing emissions into the environment in monetary values with the goal of an economic quantification of environmental damage caused through a product or process, which then can be the basis for a monetary incentive to avoid saying impacts” (Beckenbach et al.).
$100 billion a year of climate finance pledged by higher-income countries to poorer ones six years ago hasn’t been reached. Further discussions on this are delayed until 2022 and could start to be delivered in 2023, three years late.
Rich nations largely responsible for the climate crisis agreed to double their adaptation finance to $20 billion – by 2025. This should provide sufficient funds for poor, vulnerable and developing nations to switch to renewable energy and cope with the rising storm to come.
COP26 and deforestation
There was a declaration to end deforestation by 2030 which is currently happening at a rate of 30 football pitches a minute, according to Zac Goldsmith. $19.2 bn has been pledged from governments and the private sector. Most of the major forest nations are signed up, except Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, president of the world’s biggest deforesting nation.
There is an extra package of more than $1 bn for indigenous communities, who are the most effective forest guardians. There are also long-overdue steps to create sustainable supply chains and deforestation-free international trade. Though a lot more detail and buy-in is needed in this area!
COP26 and methane
An alliance of more than 90 nations, covering two thirds of the global economy, committed to reducing methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. The US will lead the way by obliging companies to plug leaks in more than 3m miles of pipelines.
COP26 and coal
This amounts to 40% of global emissions annually. Important progress was made on phasing down global coal production. It’s the first global agreement of its kind. More than 40 countries agreed to phase out coal-fired power. Canada, South Korea, Ukraine, Indonesia and Vietnam said they would quit this dirtiest form of fossil fuels between 2030 and 2040. Even Poland signed up, which is remarkable given its devotion to coal. Unfortunately, the US, China, Australia and India keep coal alive outside this agreement.
How was COP26 positive?
- Nigeria presented their first carbon-neutral plan.
- Countries representing more than 70% of the world’s emissions have now signed up to long-term goals.
- Discussions on loss and damage, climate finance, and adaptation are all now focused on solutions.
- The fossil fuel problem is being named.
- More world leaders than ever before signed a landmark declaration to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.
What Greta Thunberg says about COP26
Greta Thunberg has accused COP attendees of “greenwashing”. She says: “It’s all just Bla Bla Bla. This is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got you into it in the first place. And more and more people are starting to realise this. Many are starting to ask themselves what will it take for the people in power to wake up.” Nov 6, 2021.
Words from small island nations
Many agree that the most affected countries are those of small island nations. We have then selected those quotes from the islands we work with. At the end of the blog, see also the attached statement in links from the Prime Ministers of Barbados and Sri Lanka.
“If Cops have any value, it is in forcing those who have profited from the climate crisis to look into the eyes of the victims. But are the leaders of the US, EU and China and the CEOs of Exxon, Shell and BP still able to see?” Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, posed this question in an opening-day speech that brought goosebumps to many of those watching.
“Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?” she said, castigating those who had failed to act sooner and still hesitated to finance a transition to clean energy. She then continued stating that the cost was now being measured in lives and livelihoods in small island nations. “This is immoral, and it is unjust.”
Says Prime Minister Bainimarama: “The existence of our low-lying neighbours is not at the negotiating table, 1.5 is alive and it is possible. Humanity doesn’t lack the resources, technology, projects or innovative potential to achieve it. All that is missing is the courage to act! The courage to choose our grandchildren’s future over shareholder greed and corporate carbon agreement interests.”
“The science is clear, no city, no community and no ecosystem will be spared from the reckoning that lies beyond 1.5 degrees of warming, including our oceans the lungs of the planet,” said Mr Bainimarama. “We have fallen so far off course that only bold and courageous actions would suffice. 2060 is too late; empty promises of mid-century emissions are not enough.”
Witnessing climate change in Fiji
I have lived for almost ten years amongst communities on the outer islands of Fiji. I have personally witnessed climate changes throughout the islands. For example, they get used to their villages flooding on high tides. Skin disease such as scabies is also so common in some areas it’s hard to come across a child without some form of problem associated with being in damp conditions for months on end. Other examples of climate change are the increasing intensity and frequency of cyclones and reef destruction.
Sea walls are erected and sometimes welcomed but often it only protects a small area. This is a very temporary measure as the quality of material used isn’t good enough to withstand the incessant rising sea levels and ever-increasing force of cyclones.
Rising sea levels
We planted mangroves in many areas around Fiji. One, in particular, stands out, it is just outside Naselesele village in Northern Taveuni, the third-largest island of 330 in Fiji. At that time, I used to stay there for about eight months a year taking part in a wide variety of community-led environmental initiatives.
The area on which we planted saplings was a small, wild outcrop, a protruding area of sand with palms and bushes which extended into a very shallow strait. On the other side was a private island filled to the brim with jungle. When I started doing projects on Taveuni this outcrop had a huge beach on low tide where we could collect stranded or floating mangrove saplings. We then planted them in the sand next to and among the established mangroves. On high tide, the water would reach up to the very top of the beach line and there was no evidence of rising sea levels at all.
Each year I returned I noticed the palms that were on this beach line were falling into the sea and dying, more and more each year. One year I counted more than ten lying crisscrossed and strewn all over the beach like corpses. These are trees that are over 60 years old which indicates the cause of death is recent. It looked as though they had been saturated in salt for too long, just over their very threshold of tolerance.
This special outcrop is losing trees at a rate of about one per month. On top of that, the water is rising so high now, on a full moon tide, it covers the whole width of the coastal road.
Coral reefs have a bleak future. A temperature rise of 2 degrees would eliminate 99 per cent of today’s reefs. On the other hand, an increase of 1.5 degrees C could save a sliver of them, with losses between 70 and 90 per cent.
When temperatures become too warm, corals expel the plant (zooxanthellae) that live inside them symbiotically alongside polyps. This causes the coral structure to turn white because it has lost an important food source.
Although corals can survive a bleaching event, they are more vulnerable to disease. They will eventually die if the marine heatwave lasts much longer than three months.
Our climate pledge
- We signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, working in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) of the United Nations.
- We are in the process of signing up for the Get Nature Positive campaign.
- Expanding to the UK means we will fly internationally far less.
- Promoting rail travel to all guests with free station collections.
- Continuing to employ and source food locally.
- To plant 120 trees per year to offset my (and Island Spirit’s) carbon footprint according to 8 Billion Trees.
- Aim to collaborate with the Woodland Trust.
- Donate 10% of proceeds to charities Seaful and Sea Shepherd.
- Going local. I have personally committed to buying food from Radford Mill, a local farm shop opposite my house.
- When I buy a new car, it will be electric.
- We joined the Glasgow Declaration.
- Remarks by Mia Amor Mottley Prime Minister of Barbados.
- Statement from Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
- A summary of points from ‘Carbon Footprint‘.
- Helpful climate change jargon.
- Test your carbon footprint with ‘8 Billion Trees’.
- New COP26 draft text.
- Are ‘nature positive’ trips the next step in ethical tourism?
- We will offset our carbon footprint with 8 Billion Trees and the Woodland Trust.
- Our beneficiary of 10% of proceeds from each of our trips Seaful.
- Our beneficiary of 10% of proceeds from each of our trips Sea Shepard.
If you want to learn more about Island Spirit’s responsible travel ethos, please click here.