COP26: Will it change how we live?

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was hosted in Glasgow and took place between
the 31st of October and the 12th of November 2021, caught the attention of citizens all across the world,
making global headlines. Also known as COP26 (Conference of the Parties), countries came together for the 26th iteration to address climate change and the effect it is having on the planet.

Climate change has been a popular discussion for many years, with worry surrounding the health and
longevity of our planet. Although it typically refers to the natural shifts of temperature and weather
patterns across the globe, human interference has led to rapidly changing movements, with such
interference resulting in humans being the main reason for drastic climate change. With the burning of
fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, greenhouse gas emissions are blanketing the earth, trapping the
sun’s heat and causing steady but sure damage.

While that covers the brief technicalities of the problem, the purpose of the COP26 is an attempt to introduce aims and objectives to combat this. Many statements and declarations were made as a result of the COP26 summit, with the key pledges being: a global forest finance promise, the cutting of global methane, a coal phase-out, a commitment to halt fossil-fuel financing, an introduction of 100% zero-emission cars, and a financial alliance between many countries, committing a large sum of money towards ending climate change. As a further result of this summit, scientific advisors have also called awareness to necessary changes in human behavioral urges, encouraging people to eat less meat, reduce the number of fights taken and to embrace environmental technology. But are these just hopeful dreams and how likely will people be able to gain a large enough majority to adopt these behavioral patterns?

Focusing on meat consumption, it persists as a large part of many people’s diets all around the world.
Despite a rise in veganism, eating meat continues to remain a daily part of meals in many homes. In a
recent major study, it has been discovered that meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases
from food production, twice the pollution of production of plant-based foods (The Guardian, 2021). This
staggering figure highlights the massive effect the meat production industry is having on climate change
and has caused a large amount of shock. Instigating a restriction on the consumption of meat may be
deemed a necessary action in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however, this would be at the
expense of angering many. Potentially being seen as an infringement of basic human rights, many
people could react badly to this restriction, with meat being an everyday sustenance in their lives. As a
result, the introduction of such a restriction could become a controversial problem, with government
officials possibly having to find a balance in order to effectively initiate an ‘eat less meat’ rule.

Who knows, maybe we will return to ration books to limit our consumption?

Following the end of the COP26 conference, countries have made the decision to come together in a
‘climate agreement’, aiming to keep to the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, the initial threshold
set in the 2015 Paris agreement. However, the pledges that have been made at the summit have been
proven by scientific advisors to fall short of the necessary requirements in remaining at the set 1.5°C
temperature limit. Consequently, all of the countries involved have agreed to meet again next year,
where in Egypt they will re-examine and discuss further plans to decrease climate problems. This has
shown nothing more than a lack of initiative taken by government officials across the world: they have
failed in putting together an effective plan that will help combat human-induced climate change, forcing
them to come together in a 27th conference and proving their inability to take this problem seriously.

Ordinary citizens have recognized the lack of consideration and depth behind the pledges made, with
tens of thousands of protestors marching in Glasgow and across the globe, demanding bolder actions to
be taken by the governments. ‘Climate Justice Now’ has become a popular phrase used amongst
activists, branded across posters and chanted by the people.

Despite this being the 26th United Nations climate change conference, I feel as though officials and
leaders are still not taking climate change as seriously as the situation calls for. To maintain their image,
they are required to sustain an image to show that they are dedicated and willing to create change in
order to help save our planet; however, the fact that this is the 26th summit speaks volumes. We have
continuously and unapologetically allowed ourselves and the leaders who supposedly ‘look after’ us to
decrease the health of the planet. With ordinary voices becoming louder, a significant example being
Greta Thunberg – the face of the youth climate movement, they are helping raise awareness about the
consequences of human actions – and frankly, doing a better job than most world officials. But can this awareness physically make a difference or will it always be in the hands of corporations and governments?

With this COP26 conference and the actions being taken by regular citizens, there is hope that effective
interference in eradicating the harmful effects of humanity-induced climate change will soon be
introduced. Though there is potential that it will change the way we live, this may be for the better,
ensuring that many generations to come will still have this planet to live on. Climate change has brought
worry, however, the fact that we are worried shows initiative – the problem has been recognized by
many, causing solutions to be brainstormed. The common question seems to be: are we doing enough? Are ‘we’ even able to?

Although we have a long way to go, every change we make will continue to have an impact on the planet: baby steps are key in battling the long and challenging effects of climate change.

By Lucia Cubb

Image courtesy of channel4.com