Was COP26 a Cop-out?

So it’s all over – for another year.

The United Nations 26th `Conference of the Parties` on climate change, hosted by the United Kingdom and Italy, and held in Glasgow, has now finished. So did it achieve anything or was it just so much “greenwash”.

At the start of the COP26, we were told these were the four essential outcomes:

  • secure global net zero by middle of the century, and keep below 1.5 degrees of warming;
  • adapt to protect communities and natural habitats;
  • mobilise finance, particularly to aid developing countries;
  • and work together to deliver real targets.


As the conference progressed, there seemed to be steps forward and big announcements in the press. Only to be followed by further arguments and withdrawals, with plenty of criticism from campaigning groups. And the arguments over language! Was `to request` stronger than `to encourage`? Did `phase down` mean the same as `phase out`?  Did the final agreement actually commit anyone to anything? It is quite difficult to make sense of it all.

So was COP26 really a cop-out?

Opinions are inevitably mixed. Here are two web links to some authoritative and balanced commentators’ articles which provide good summaries and are well worth a read.

  • Adam Vaughan, environmental journalist at the academic journal “New Scientist” – Final report from Glasgow
  • Michael Jacobs – Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sheffield and a former climate adviser to British prime minister Gordon Brown (amongst many other appointments) – Glasgow Kiss


In the final analysis, there appear to have been some important steps forward, on issues such as methane control and ending deforestation. The ‘below 1.5 degrees of warming’ target appears to be have been accepted, and is just about still alive – but ‘hanging by a thread’. The big disappointments were on the ending of fossil fuels, the lack of real binding commitments, and also the unwillingness of the developed countries to commit enough funds to the developing countries to enable them to develop their own societies without making all our mistakes.

But it was particularly encouraging to hear the voices of so many young people and indigenous communities `speaking truth to power` at the event. We would not be where we are now without these activists and campaigners. We do appear to be beyond dealing with `climate change denial`, and into a new period of agreeing how we take practical action globally.

It was also interesting to hear one commentator say that the main climate action work doesn’t happen at the COP meetings themselves. It happens through careful negotiation within countries and their governments between meetings. So we need to keep up the public pressure on our own politicians and decision makers.

And they all intend to get together again in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt for COP 27 in November 2022!

It’s not over until it’s over!

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