Excerpts from Global Green News Aatefeh Padidar’s COP26: Success? Failure? or Simply Irrelevant?
Some called it a success, many believed it was a total failure. Either way the COP26 is over now, and we are ready to talk about it.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, held in Glasgow, Scotland. Between the 31st of October and the 12th of November; leaders, representatives, and politicians from nearly 200 countries participated in the summit and made commitments.
Since the summit ended, almost every climate activist, expert and scientist has talked about it. Did we achieve enough? Or was it just a show, to show that the world leaders care?
There’s no denying that some progress has been made. A new climate agreement was signed off and for the first-time countries agreed to act on fossil fuels.
In this report, two of our very own Green Party leaders, Alex Tyrrell and Naomi Hunter commented on the pledges made. Alex is the leader of the Green Party of Quebec and Naomi holds the same title in Saskatchewan. I asked them if they think the pledges made during the summit were enough, or more needs to be done?
Naomi on Deforestation
Canada signed a declaration “to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030” which extends to 3.6 billion hectares of forest worldwide. This sounds good, but there’s reason for skepticism initially given Brazil’s and Canada’s current deforestation agendas. Then, when one learns that Indonesia has already said they likely won’t reach the “halt and reverse” goal, hope fades on this pledge.
The declaration is unlikely to address the main kind of deforestation and degradation happening in Canada: the clear cutting of primary or old-growth forests and replanting with single-species monoculture plantations, often sprayed with toxic herbicides.
I recently visited the Fairy Creek Blockade on Vancouver Island where activists have been desperately trying to keep the chainsaws out of the last remaining intact Old Growth Watershed in BC. These massive, ancient trees are some 800 years old, and the ecosystem is rare. The agreement Canada signed does not halt the destruction of that temperate rainforest. Sites with the potential to grow very large trees cover less than three percent of the province of B.C. These ecosystems are effectively the “white rhino” of old growth forests. They are almost extinguished and will not recover from logging.
Here in Saskatchewan, and across the rest of Canada, we also have continued and catastrophic clear cutting throughout the boreal forest. Despite the shortcomings of this declaration, our planet’s forest defenders can take heart and be strengthened by such high-level commitments.
Naomi on Methane Gas Pollution
In Canada, much of our methane emissions are from the oil, gas, and agriculture sectors.
Thirteen percent of Canada’s GHG emissions is attributed to methane, but many experts say that amount is likely much higher. The oil and gas industry are a huge contributor to methane emissions. They intentionally vent it off during petroleum refinement, and orphaned wells can leak methane. Leak detection is a major problem in the industry and current regulations have sites checked three times per year to catch these. This is obviously inadequate and needs to be upped. Canada also has hundreds of abandoned oil and gas wells that need to be plugged. This can be expensive but it’s very important that this be done immediately.
I am a farmer myself and I have a lot of friends with different kinds of farms. Emissions can be reduced by covering manure pools with straw, or by altering the acidity of the manure to deactivate the micro-organisms that produce methane. There are also diet changes that can be made to cattle feed to reduce methane emissions. As with any helpful environmental practice, the government can incentivize methods like this that are known to help. If the agriculture industry is going to improve on this, emissions must be lowered, or the numbers of cattle decreased.
Naomi on Coal Financing
One of the letdowns of COP26 was the last-minute amendment from the floor to change wording in the final agreement from phase-out to phase-down of coal.
The IPCC has informed the world that 45 percent reduction of CO2 from 1990 levels is necessary by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. Neither of those goals is possible with continued extraction and combustion of coal.
Naomi on US-China Deal
It is no doubt a hopeful sign that China and the US released a joint declaration. There are many encouraging aspects of their recent agreement including their intent to cooperate on: distributed generation policies that encourage integration of solar, storage, and other clean power solutions closer to electricity users; and energy efficiency policies and standards to reduce electricity waste. The United States leaves us with a lofty goal of 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. That sounds hopeful until one considers that both countries’ plans include heavy reliance on nuclear energy as well as the unproven technologies of carbon capture.
Further, these two nations have the largest militaries in the world, with the US alone responsible for more emissions from its various war machines than the total emissions of more than 140 countries combined.
Naomi on The Severity of the Crisis
COP26 was an annual international gathering to reach an imperfect consensus, and that was achieved. It is also correct to label COP26 both a failure and a success. Time will tell. The important thing is to not give up the work either in despair or celebration. This work will never end for us. Anthropocentric climate change is here.
We must continue to hold governments and industry accountable for their promises. We can’t give up on the majority of the world’s peoples who are the least responsible yet suffer the most.
We must continue to organize in the grassroots to gain more electoral success and thus a stronger presence in halls of power. COP26 saw a record number of elected Green representatives including Canada’s Elizabeth May and freshman MP Mike Morrice. I believe the growing Green influence at UNFCCC is a major factor in keeping us in the ‘hopeful’ column. The other major societal influencers being the climate activists. Both streams of workers usually bubble up from the grassroots, and they need our encouragement.