End of Coal at COP26?

The UK, host of the COP26 climate conference, hailed the “end of coal” last week. COP26 is the 26th conference of the parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

UK-appointed COP president, Alok Sharma, claimed “the end of coal is in sight.” Yet some of the world’s biggest consumers and producers of coal – United States, China, India and Australia – refused to sign the deal.

On Wednesday last night, Sharma issued a press release saying “a 190-strong coalition has today agreed to phrase out coal power.” Unfortunately, the “coalition” included counties, organisations, and even countries that don’t burn coal at all, many of whom made the commitment in 2017.

Many statements, too, are best just classed as “promises.” Modi’s India, for example, promised net zero emissions…by 2070. Net zero by 2050 promises have been made by Saudi-Arabia and, of course, the Saudi-Arabia of coal, Australia.

The agreement on deforestation has been similarly hyped. Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, India, the Congo and 100 other countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030 as well. 

Yet by some estimates, up to 90% of logging in tropical countries occurs illegally. As long as the global network of off-shore banks continues to exist, deforestation is not going to end, let alone by 2030.

The targets currently in place from COP26 will see global carbon emissions rise by 13% by 2030. That’s in contrast to a 45% reduction if governments intend to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, in line with the 2016 Paris climate agreement.

The pledges, too, are rarely reached. “The vast majority of 2030 actions and targets are inconsistent with net zero goals: there’s a nearly one degree gap between government current policies and their net zero goals,” said Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics.

We can only hope that the scientists keep making renewables more and more profitable, because the social and political solutions are failing us.

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