What does the Cop26 deal say and how will it affect us? As climate conference draws to a close, we answer the big questions
What was the goal of the Cop26 climate summit?
So is 1.5C still alive?
Yes. Just. As Cop president Alok Sharma said in his closing remarks: ‘I think today we can say with credibility that we’ve kept 1.5 within reach.’ But the pledges on the table at Cop26 mean global warming could rise to 2.4C, although more optimistic readings put it as low as 1.8C. The Glasgow Climate Pact asks governments to strengthen those pledges next year. But even 1.5C is still an unsafe level of global warming – with scientists estimating that around 70 per cent of the world’s coral reefs will die if the Earth warms this much.
For the first time, the pact asks countries to ‘phase down’ coal – signalling the beginning of the end for coal power, the biggest source of greenhouse gases (stock image)
And what about coal?
For the first time, the pact asks countries to ‘phase down’ coal – signalling the beginning of the end for coal power, the biggest source of greenhouse gases. A draft said coal should be ‘phased out’, but this was vetoed by India and China – to the dismay of campaigners.
What else does the deal say?
It urges countries to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Many states such as Saudi Arabia and India keep fuel costs artificially low, encouraging people to use them. The deal also urges developed countries to ‘double’ the amount of money to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. For the first time it also raises the topic of ‘loss and damage’ – which would mean rich countries that have heated up the planet with greenhouse gas for years would have to pay compensation to poor countries suffering the impacts.
How will this affect those living in the UK?
The UK may need to take even stronger action against greenhouse gas emissions or face charges of hypocrisy. This could mean committing to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045, instead of 2050, the previous target. It could also mean fresh scrutiny for big projects in the UK expected to generate a great deal of greenhouse gas – such as the £27 billion new roads programme, a new coal mine in Cumbria, expansion of airports around the UK and exploration of new oil and gas sites in the North Sea.
As Cop president Alok Sharma said in his closing remarks: ‘I think today we can say with credibility that we’ve kept 1.5 within reach’ (stock image)