Climate change has been a topic of discussion for many years, and as the threat to our climate increases, it has become a much more urgent global issue. To start talking about the issue, first we must know what climate change is and what we can do to help.
When talking about climate change, we are talking about the long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. This has, however, become less of a long-term shift and more of an issue that we must bring more attention to. Since the 1800’s, humans have become the main driving force behind climate change, and have only increased the output of fossil fuels in recent years. Other human driven factors behind climate change include deforestation, livestock production/farming, nitrogen containing fertilizers, and fluorinated gases. All these things, as well as natural factors, have played into the change in our climate, and the overall worsening of our atmosphere.
Although our climate is exponentially changing, there are actions being taken in order to reverse this change. Just recently, from October 31 till November 13, the United Nations came together for the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties in order to discuss solutions to the problem. COP26 is regarded as one of the most important conferences since Paris in 2015, which also discussed solutions to climate change. In the conference back in 2015, the Paris agreement was signed in an attempt to limit the change of our climate to 2 degrees Celsius this century, while aiming 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Glasgow Climate Pact, as well as other actions taken by countries this year, means that this goal still remains in sight.
Another goal the Paris agreement set was that every country needs to have increasingly ambitious climate change goals every 5 years, which leads into why the COP26 is so important. This year, countries had to update or submit their plans for reducing emissions, or their NDC (nationally determined contributions), making this year’s conference that much more critical in our missions to reduce climate change.
Many good things came out of COP26, and countries are becoming increasingly ambitious in their efforts to reduce climate change. As we all know, a transition from using fossil fuels to green energy sources, such as using electric vehicles, is vital in saving our climate, and they are becoming increasingly affordable as production increases. More than 40 nations, some of which include China, US, UK, and India, aligned their standards and are working to make green technologies more affordable than their fossil fuel alternatives by 2030. Called the Breakthrough Agenda, the first five breakthroughs countries are attempting to make by this time are clean electricity, electric vehicles, green steel, hydrogen, and sustainable farming, while creating 20 million new jobs in regards to these things. Already, the cost of solar power and wind power have become the cheapest alternatives in the world. All we need now is the ambition of everyone around the globe to reduce climate change as much as possible.
Although many countries are taking action to reduce their emissions, it’s not as simple as you would think. For decades, many countries have depended on cheap, accessible coal to fuel their economies despite the effects of global warming. In fact, coal fired power results for more than a third of the world’s electricity, and is the single biggest contributor to climate change. A shift towards green energy will take many years to apply around the globe, which has led many countries to not support this year’s coal pledge. The coal pledge was a commitment to end the production of coal powered energy somewhere in the future, yet some of the countries with the most coal plants, such as the U.S. and Australia, have opted out. Although these countries have pledged to slow climate change, they still plan to build more coal plants in the future. Due to this, as stated by the U.N secretary general on climate action, the world is, “on a 2.7 degree pathway – a catastrophic pathway.”
Another example of how difficult this shift in energy will be can be seen in Maine. An attempt to bring hydro power from Canada to New England was recently rejected by Maine voters. Although the power line would have brought in as much energy as a nuclear power plant, many thought it was an eyesore and would cost way too much. The attempt to bring clean, green energy into Massachusetts has yet again been setback, proving yet again that a shift towards green energy would be very difficult.
Many other things regarding the logistics of how green energy would be applied to countries were discussed during COP26, and much progress towards the slowing of climate change were made. These changes, however, have proved time and time again that they are going to need time, cooperation, and a whole lot of commitment. COP26 was a good representation of the difficulties we will face while attempting to stop climate change, and the global motivation we need in order to make it happen.