Life Science Environment World leaders have already secured a few wins at COP26, with or without Australia’s help
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World leaders have already secured a few wins at COP26, with or without Australia’s help

COP26
SEC Armadillo in Glasgow is one of the main venues for the COP26 climate summit. Photo: Getty
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Amid diplomatic tensions, climate urgency and never-ending spin, delegates at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow managed to secure a couple of wins at a global level.

Major agreements were signed despite the meeting of leaders being described by some commentators as a “historic failure”.

From cutting methane emissions to saving rainforests, hundreds of countries pledged action on climate change, although Australia has been notably absent from many of these announcements.

Here’s what has been achieved so far, as well as what’s gone wrong at COP26 in Glasgow.

Historic methane reductions

More than 100 countries have agreed to slash methane emissions by 30 per cent over the next decade.

Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 28 to 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Climate scientists have welcomed the news, assuming it doesn’t distract from the need to cut other greenhouse gases at the same time.

Before the conference there were about 60 signatories to the new target, however in recent days more and more countries have joined, including the US, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Australia did not sign the pledge.

COP26
Australia was absent from several milestone agreements at COP26. Photo: Getty

Phasing out coal

More than 40 countries plus many other organisations agreed to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Among them were Canada, Chile, Poland and Vietnam, but not Australia and other major coal users like China and India.

“The end of coal is in sight,” UK business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told reporters.

However, some climate activists told The Guardian that the 2030 deadline was “underwhelming” because it allowed business to continue as usual for a few more years.

Other countries like South Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines also agreed to retire some of their coal-fired power plants early, despite not signing the pledge.

Deforestation on the agenda

Deforestation plays a big role in climate change because forests act as carbon sinks.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, and chopping them down means more of this carbon dioxide ends up in the atmosphere.

At COP26, more than 120 nations promised to not only end, but reverse deforestation by 2030.

Signatories included Brazil – home of the Amazon rainforest – as well as other countries with large wilderness areas such as Russia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Environmental activists want this agreement to be transparent and legally binding, pointing out that a similar commitment from 2014 did not slow down deforestation.

COP26
Indigenous delegates at COP26 called on leaders to protect rainforests. Photo: Getty

International aid still lacking

As part of the 2015 Paris Accord, the wealthiest nations agreed to pool together $100 billion per year by 2020 to help poorer and more vulnerable countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.

That money still hasn’t arrived, and it’s become a contentious issue at COP26.

“I think what we’re asking is not a lot,” Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Casten Nemra previously told The New Daily.

However, several countries have instead announced their own aid commitments.

In Glasgow, Scott Morrison announced that Australia would up its financial commitments for the Asia-Pacific region to a total of $2 billion over the next five years.

Key activists not invited

Unlike previous summits, School Strike for Climate organiser Greta Thunberg was not invited to speak.

She and other young activists such as Vanessa Nakate were among the countless protesters calling for tougher action from outside the summit.

“You can shove your climate crisis up your arse,” Ms Thunberg chanted at one stage.

COP26
Young climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate met Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after they weren’t invited to address COP26. Photo Getty

Australia’s embarrassment

The Australian government was mired in two separate controversies at COP26.

Mr Morrison escalated the ongoing submarine dispute with France when he leaked personal text messages from President Emmanuel Macron.

The international row even threatened to overshadow Australia’s pledges (or lack thereof) at COP26.

At the same time, Australia’s pavilion stood out from other countries because it promoted a carbon capture project by oil and gas company Santos.

The Climate Council’s head of research Dr Simon Bradshaw called it a “propaganda machine”.