Has the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow been a success? What has been achieved – and what has not? As part of their lecture series SDG Academy, the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (ASI) organized a debrief of the conference during which the results have been analyzed. Researchers of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who attended the negotiations gave first-hand insights into the conference and discussed the role of large emitters and small island states, the results concerning the often cited “Article 6” and if the glass was half full or half empty.
Philipp Pattberg, director of the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute, called the conference “a small success”, seeing that specific targets could be agreed upon and countries will have to sharpen their climate commitments already next year instead of 2025.
Montserrat Koloffon, PhD candidate at the Institute of Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU Amsterdam, went to the COP 26 and had the chance to speak to several decision-makers and described their mood and expectations. They were feeling “pleased but frustrated at the same time” about the outcomes of the conference. In her own point of view, “progress is great when we compare it to a few years ago, but not great when we compare it to what science says is needed”.
Cornelia Fast, who was working for the Communications and Engagement division of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat at the COP 26, shared her perspective of someone who was working behind the scenes of the conference. In her eyes, the COP was “not a complete success because of the misrepresentation of certain communities” with which she also referred to the datasets that are being used to track mitigation and adaptation actions. However, “many people dedicated 24 hours of their day to make this happen and it is always easy to be critical, but everyone was really motivated, and a new spark was ignited by this conference”. She also mentioned the increasingly important role that cities and other non-state actors played and how they were also offered a stage in the green zone.
Xiaoran Li, PhD candidate at the IVM at VU Amsterdam, went to the COP 26 to research the role of China in climate politics. “A lot of people were disappointed about the final result, but for me it is more important to look closely at the actual overall approach of the large emitters like the US and China in this process”, Xiaoran stated. Taking this into consideration, she can say she is “cautiously optimistic about the outcomes of the conference”. She also mentioned the negotiation practice that China uses: They come well prepared and define their goals beforehand to avoid making empty promises. “Once China commits to a goal, it knows that it can deliver.”
Stewart Motta, PhD candidate at the IVM at VU Amsterdam, shared his experience of the conference from a water governance perspective. “We got the Paris 6.4 rulebook which was several years delayed but can probably be looked at as one of the largest outcomes of this COP”. Still, he does not consider this outcome ideal: “Concessions were made and loopholes granted to make this work”. He also referred to the size of delegations of countries like Brazil, which sent most people to the conference as well as the massive representation of the financial sector, which reveals their interest and awareness of the urgency to act.
Yuv Sungkur attended the Conference of Youth (COY) in Glasgow as a delegate of Mauritius and presented his view on the COY 16 and COP 26 as a member of a small island developing state and the youth. “From these two perspectives, COP 26 fell well below expectations”, Yuv said. The proportion of representatives for small island developing states, who are at the forefront of this crisis, compared to countries that are large CO2 emitters, was not sufficient: “The results are there, but it bothers me how they were made”.
We would like to thank all speakers for sharing their captivating experiences with us and for allowing us to view more closely into this COP and its outcomes. The recording of the event can be watched on our YouTube channel. Stay tuned for the next SDG Academy in February about circular economy. More information will be announced on our website and LinkedIn.
Yuv also wrote a blogpost about his participation in Conference of Youth (COY) which you can find here.