With the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow now over, you might be wondering what impact the decisions taken there will have on you. We asked two climate experts fresh from Glasgow to give us their take. Cristina Carreiras coordinated the EU’s position during the negotiations at COP and was at the forefront of the technical discussions that resulted in the final agreement, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact. Carmen Marques Ruiz is a Spanish EU Climate Pact Ambassador who attended the summit.
“The COP’s processes and follow-up national actions will have consequences on our daily lives,” says Cristina. “Certain investments will be promoted or limited, the costs of certain goods will increase or decrease.” Broadly speaking, in terms of governmental and non-governmental action, we can expect to see an acceleration of the drive towards climate-friendly solutions in our societies and economies, such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, and sustainable goods, food and tourism.
Much of the media attention at COP focused on discussions around coal and subsidies for fossil fuels, climate finance for developing countries, and announcements made by major economies like India and China. But one of the key achievements was the completion of the so-called ‘rulebook’. Six years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the rulebook finally makes clear how the targets agreed in Paris can be turned from words into action.“These are rules about the transparency of global action regarding climate change. Before the Paris Agreement, there wasn’t a common way of reporting on greenhouse gas emissions and climate action for developed and developing countries,” Cristina explains. Now everyone will have to monitor and report on climate action progress in a transparent and meaningful way. Although they may seem technical, these rules will make a big difference – they can build trust internationally, while guiding action within the EU.
What comes next?
Now that a political agreement has been reached, attention is turning to implementation. “People often feel frustrated if they don’t see immediate change after COP, but it puts a lot of pressure on countries to act,” says Cristina. “All COPs have created a shift, bringing climate change to the fore of political discourse, but the speed of follow-up action largely depends on countries.”
So future iterations of COP will be dedicated to following the progress of the commitments made in Glasgow and holding countries accountable. “The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as the overarching body, will continue to put pressure on countries to reduce their emissions, follow the science to understand the goals we have set for ourselves, and define goals for the future,” says Cristina.
Governments have committed – but it’s up to us too
Carmen left Glasgow feeling hopeful and determined. “I saw so much cooperation at COP, so many people coming together to discuss the planet’s problems and solutions that I feel hopeful about humanity’s ability to act,” she says.
Although the impact of COP will take a while to trickle down into our everyday lives, Carmen believes that the discussions will motivate people. “We have an overwhelming sense of urgency, but now we need to focus on doing things – this will be the game changer,” she says. As a Climate Pact Ambassador, Carmen spreads climate messages within her network to make the point that if we all act, we can make a big difference. There are any number of actions we can take: from walking or cycling more, flying less and eating mainly seasonal food to moving your money to a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuel production.
“The Climate Pact builds links between high-level climate policy, like the agreements made at COP and at EU level, and local realities – to make people feel like they create change,” Carmen says.
Cristina agrees that citizens can be part of the solution: “Knowledge is power – it helps people decide how they can contribute, by taking the train instead of the plane, investing in a renewable energy project or even questioning why governments are still subsidising fossil fuels. Asking ourselves how we can be part of the solution is as important as demanding our governments act.”
All hands on deck!
With delegates from around the world and representatives of a whole spectrum of interest groups, COP, for Carmen, is an event that embodies the importance of inclusivity in global climate action. “The sheer number and variety of participants shows this new form of international diplomacy in action; now we need to channel this energy. In Europe we must reach out to all people, regardless of their age, income, or location,” she says.
“It is vital that EU climate policy is accepted, understood and supported by all EU citizens. We need to think about everyone.”
We can all be part of the solution
What will COP26 mean for you? While change, especially on a global level, is often slow, progress is picking up pace. Public consciousness of the urgent need for action has never been higher – and we saw the change beginning to take hold in Glasgow. Now, more than ever, is the time to act for the climate.
To maximise your impact, join people, businesses and organisations from across Europe and beyond by making a pledge as part of the European Climate Pact. Your sustainable choices count. How you choose to get from A to B, how you spend your money, what clothes you wear, what food you eat – every action you take can contribute to our climate success.
- 25 November 2021