Climate change is a global issue. Tackling such complex and far-reaching issue is made all the more difficult by conflicting interests, as each country struggles to balance their own power and interests with those of others. Global pacts are difficult to enforce when the systems of accountability often do not have much strength. This further undermines the legitimacy of these agreements and weakens their influence on the signatories.
The goal of COP26 was to strengthen accountability and focus on setting progress markers so that goal tracking can occur. The countries had already entered into the Paris Agreement but the enforcement and tacking of progress had not been fully implemented prior to this most recent convention.
Generally, international sustainability policies have been criticized for not having enough enforcement. Ultimately, this lack of enforcement makes it increasingly difficult to implement the polices that have been agreed upon in the international policy making setting. To turn away from this reputation, COP26 was focused on accountability and outlined multiple plans for the enforcement and tracking of the policies. The focus being on the Paris Agreement, the countries outlined responsibilities and data collection protocols for the project.
The opening of this summit set the pace for the rest of the proceedings. Most of the discussion was centred around accountability for “future generations and most vulnerable populations.” Boris Johnson, United Kingdom Prime Minister, made this statement in his opening speech at the summit. Although, accountability is wanting, and this has put pressure on the current and past leadership that comprises this summit, it has not inspired enough action thus far.
COP26 did not end without criticism, some critics read the results with an unapproving tone. Others pointed out that no single summit will be the answer to all climate change issues. This summit was one step in the direction of legitimate action. The agreement that was reached took two weeks to finalize and the alternative was to walk away from COP26 with no new agreement at all.
Ultimately, many countries walked away with new commitments to further the goals of COP26. Their focuses being carbon pricing, investing in climate adaptation, and committing to global climate financing.
Carbon pricing requires that countries place a fee on emitting and/or offering an incentive for reduced emissions. Changing carbon prices will cause a shift in supply and demand leading to more investment in sustainable options. This pricing will also absorb the cost of emitting carbon as these greener sources of energy will counteract the damage carbon emissions have done. Current carbon pricing initiatives cover 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Two examples of carbon pricing are emissions trading systems and taxing revenue collected from using carbon emitting energy.
Investing in Climate Adaptation is one part of the puzzle that needs to be completed in reaching Net-Zero. Climate investments make financial sense because of the current and impending effects climate change will have on the world’s economy. Clean energy investment will lead to more economic growth as the development creates more jobs and fills the space in the market that fossil fuels will eventually leave. Countries, companies, and inter-governmental organizations have all begun investing but much more involvement is needed to reach the goal of Net-Zero.
The United States will quadruple climate financing by 2024 and mobilize resources and expertise worldwide. Germany changed its emissions goals and promised to mobilize more of their budget in climate financing. Australia set their net-zero goal in 2050 and will invest in low-emission technologies in the coming years. Even India, a country with a history of using their recent industrial revolution to justify their rampant use of emission producing energy that is harmful to their people and the environment, made several commitments. They are increasing their renewable energy use by 25%, reducing carbon emissions, increasing their clean energy capacity, and aiming to reach net-zero by 2070.
Ultimately, these changes and the COP26 focus on finally implementing solid accountability measures will add legitimacy to the Paris Agreement and international sustainability policy. This is one step of many in the walk towards net-zero.
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