The COP26 Recap:
7 Positive Actions from The Summit
Kaylee Brzezinski | November 18, 2021 | 7 min read
The COP26 Recap
For the last two weeks, world leaders, activists, businesses and nonprofits from around the world gathered in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26. Established by the United Nations in 1995, COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Parties are the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — a 1994 treaty with 197 Parties (196 countries and the EU).
With the scientific backings and effects of climate change coming to the forefront of everyone's minds, more pressure than usual has been put on world leaders to provide us with concrete plans and actions to help mitigate climate change. We witnessed ground breaking commitments from actions to end deforestation to creative activism. A lot happened over the course of these two weeks which is why we have put together a COP26 round up of some of the most memorable moments!
For the first time, some of the One Tree Planted team was able to attend the summit, including our CEO and Founder, our COO and several members of our projects team, some of whom shared behind the scenes photo and video updates via our Instagram account throughout the event.
One of our Forestry Experts and Brazil Project Manager, Alaine Ball, was also be part of a Salesforce panel which was focused on advancing tree equity, global urban reforestation, and the importance of ocean ecosystems like mangroves!
In addition to our time at COP26 we got a chance to meet up with some of our local partners in Scotland for a site visit as well as plant some trees ourselves with several other reforestation organizations from around the world. These of course were some of our most fond highlight from the event. You can't take us anywhere without longing for the trees!
Some big commitments were made in regards to deforestation. More than 100 world countries that represent 85% of Earth's forests have signed a pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among those countries Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the US and the UK have all signed the pledge. 28 of these countries also committed to remove deforestation causing ingredients from the global supply chain such as palm oil, soya and cocoa.
The pledge includes $19.2 billion of public and private funds. Some of this funding will go to developing countries to restore damaged land, prevent wildfires and support indigenous communities. Experts of course supported the move however reminded the summit how the previous deal in 2014 had "failed to slow deforestation at all" and how commitments need to be carried out. This is a large concern for us all. The time is now for more action and fewer empty promises. At One Tree Planted, we are ready to mobilize and roll up our sleeves to restore our forests, and we make it easy for you to help: consider planting a tree with us today!
It wouldn't be a good climate summit without some solid activism! About 100,000 people gathered to support global climate action in Glasgow. Considering climate change affects us all (some more than others right now) there was quite the mixed bag of folks coming together to demand action now. We saw everyone from climate activists to farmers and Indigenous groups to trade unions. Greta Thunberg was of course part of the action by joining in the march as well as contributing her epic commentary to any "green-washers" in attendance coining a new popular phrase of, "Blah, blah, blah". She also requested that the United Nations declare a climate emergency. Vanessa Nakate, an Ugandan climate justice activist took the reins for leading the rally.
In addition to the march, a couple of other notable moments were that 21 scientists were arrested who chained themselves together and blocked a road bridge over the River Clyde and Extinction Rebellion made an appearance in aprons advertising for green washing services, in addition many other creative movements.
More great news for forests was declared at COP26 with the announcement of the Bezos Earth Fund which pledged $2 billion to help restore nature and transform food systems as part of its $10 billion commitment to fight climate change, improve nature, and advance environmental justice and economic opportunity. "Our commitment today supports a three-fold imperative – we must conserve what we have, restore what we've lost, and grow what we need in harmony with nature," said Jeff Bezos.
This is good news for those of us involved in restoration in Africa supporting AFR100! $1 billion of the pledged money will go towards landscape restoration in Africa and the United States. In Africa, The Bezos Earth Fund is partnering with Africa-owned partners such as AFR100 in order to make an impact at scale. FR100, the African Forest Landscape Restoration initiative, is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030 and One Tree Planted is honored to be a technical partner of AFR100, thanks to our long-standing global restoration partnership with World Resources Institute (WRI).
Announced was a new $345 million program, seven-year program called The Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program (FOLUR). The program will take place in 27 countries to improve food chains of 8 different industries including beef, cocoa, coffee, maize, palm oil, rice, soy, and wheat. The goal is to improve land use systems of these commodities in order to restore degraded land and ramp us sustainable practices when it comes to land management.
The funding for this program will be coming from Global Environment Facility and led by the World Bank. This will be particularly beneficial as climate change is reducing crop yields and the agriculture sector contributed 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
The energy sector accounts for 2/3 of greenhouse gas emissions. Meaning that our usage of resources like coal, gas and oil is having far too large of an impact on our planet and in fueling climate change. President of the Conference Alok Sharma presented the new Global Clean Power Transition Statement which is a pledge to end coal investments, scale up clean power, make a just transition, and phase out coal by the 2030's in some major economies, and in the 2040's in others.
46 countries have taken the pledge. The goal would be to power the world to Net-Zero. The downside? Well, for many this simply does not seem like enough. At least 96% of gas and oil producers have plans to expand their assets. Between 2018 and 2020, participating countries of G20 countries promised $188 billion to fossil fuels which is 2.5 times the amount that has been contributed to renewable energy. But, some governments and public finance institutions across the world in the US, European Union, Canada and UK, have pledged to end direct support for the ‘unabated’ fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022. And don't forget, also during COP26 President Biden announced a multinational plan to control methane. This includes an alliance of 90 countries to implement new regulatory measures to limit global methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade.
20 countries pledged to stop funding fossil fuel projects abroad. Among these countries included the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand. While some countries had previously agreed to end international financing for coal, this agreement is the first of its kind to include oil and gas projects as well. This agreement should help push along the transition to renewable energy. All eyes are on the United States to ensure that President Biden does not fold on this commitment.
This pledge is huge. Burning fossil fuels for energy now accounts for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. There is still a long way to go in this area as some of the largest greenhouse gas emitters did not join this list of countries. The fossil fuel industry however, had a huge presence at COP26. The fossil fuel industry had at least 503 representatives present at COP26 making it the largest delegation present at the summit.
COP26 has been mentioned as the most crucial summit for the climate to date. And while there were many groundbreaking pledges this time around, there are arguments to be made about each and some skepticism of our leaders whether or not they will truly carry out these pledges. As individuals, we often feel helpless with our leaders and big money machines at the helm. However, there is lots of evidence that our individual efforts collectively are driving change. Stay focused on your own personal action and we can make a different. Event if that means and action as simple as planting a tree.