Nations must make bold compromises at the COP26 summit and show strong political will to address climate change.” This is what Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama said as he opened this year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Poland. The conference, which took place from November 13th – 18th, was a watershed moment for global environmental policy as it saw an unprecedented number of participants including world leaders such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump who have been central to the ongoing debate on climate change over the past decade.
The Climate Summit is a meeting that happens every year where representatives from 195 countries gather to discuss how best to deal with climate change through various mitigation strategies and adaptation plans for future events.
This year’s summit was especially important as it is the first major meeting since the 2015 Paris agreement where countries set out their individual targets for reducing emissions between 2020-2030, which are now being reevaluated in light of the current political climate. The overall goal of this agreement is to limit global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Despite the high level of participation at this year’s conference, there are many who feel that current regulations are not sufficient to reach the 2°C goal by 2020 due to several countries falling behind on their carbon emission reduction targets which have caused global temperatures to rise an average of 1°C since pre-industrial times.
The only way to prevent this rise in temperature is for countries to commit to stronger emission reduction targets that are legally binding along with better climate monitoring measures that will ensure accountability among nations. Even though the current rhetoric at COP26 is much more positive than previous summits, it still falls short of what is needed to prevent the dire consequences associated with climate change.
The average temperature of our planet has increased by at least 1°C over the past century and is projected to go up even more depending on how much greenhouse gases continue to be released into the atmosphere. This rise in global temperatures has already resulted in a wide range of effects such as an increase in drought conditions, forest fires, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.
The Paris Agreement has unified nearly all countries around the world to address climate change which is a huge accomplishment that can’t be underestimated. However, if emissions continue at their current rate then it is predicted that global temperatures will rise by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels which will result in many more environmental issues such as the extinction of plant and animal species, disruption to food production and forced migration of millions of people.
Sunlight is reflected by the Earth’s surface which cools our planet down while greenhouse gases trap heat inside the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are essential for life on Earth because they keep the planet warm enough for humans and other species to survive. However, the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is now too high which has resulted in global warming as a byproduct.