Outcomes from COP26 That Affect Us All

Outcomes from COP26 That Affect Us All

No-one can escape climate change news. Just switch on the radio or television, read a newspaper, or look out the window to see the effect that climate change is having on our planet and, closer to home, our urban and rural spaces and our families. We have to face it and we have to change.

I want, in this short article, to give a little more information about some of the outcomes of COP26 that may affect us all and that you may have missed in the national media coverage. So much information abounds on COP26 – a quick online search can take you deep into complex topics – this article will hopefully provide a helpful overview.

The event in summary

Arguably COP26 was one of the largest and most important events ever held in Scotland.

More than 40,000 people registered to attend – a higher number than for any of the previous 25 COPs.

Tens of thousands of activists visited Glasgow.

Over the course of the two-week event, more than 400 protests were staged in Glasgow (with Police Scotland making just 100 arrests in total).

Almost 500 meetings, events and other engagements were undertaken by Scottish Ministers, many with businesses and potential investors in green innovation, so what were the measurable results?

Key pledges:

  • Global Methane Pledge: 103 countries signed up to a deal to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
  • The Coal Pledge: Over 40 countries committed to move away from coal power generation and ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030. Regrettably we all know that that this pledge was watered down at the Conference’s last gasp but, given the range of countries involved and their different stages of economic development, that was disappointingly inevitable.
  • Ending Deforestation: Over 100 countries committed to ending deforestation by 2030. This landmark agreement encompasses 85% of the world’s forests.
  • Policy Action Agenda: 45 governments signed up to a new Policy Action Agenda – a commitment to transform agriculture and food systems through policy reforms, research and innovation.
  • Retailers’ Commitment to Nature: Five major UK supermarkets agreed to halve the nature and climate impacts of food systems by 2030.
  • US-China agreement: Both countries agreed to work together towards the 1.5 degrees limit during this decade. Mind you I would have been more impressed if President Biden had not needed a 20 car motor-cade to travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow during the summit and if Xi Jinping had been in attendance given that China is the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero: Over 450 financial firms across 45 countries pledged to commit £95 trillion towards net-zero objectives.

Close to home

The Scottish Government made a number of COP26 announcements linked to its commitment to climate action:

  • The National Test Programme: Supporting farmers and crofters to learn about their work impacts on climate and nature to begin in Spring 2022, with a commitment of £51 million of investment over the following three years.
  • The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme: Reopening applications in 2022 to support a Programme for Government commitment to double the amount of land under organic management.
  • Climate Justice Fund: Increasing this fund from £24 million to £36 million during this parliamentary term.
  • The Nature Restoration Fund: Supporting projects that restore nature and tackle the causes of biodiversity loss with at least £55 million of funding over the next five years.

They also published additional detail on their policy ambitions for onshore and offshore wind, launched a new hydrogen strategy, and published a new planning framework with climate action at its heart.

Action not words

The objective of course of all countries attending was to use their engagement, influence and interaction to push for an international agreement that would live up to the urgency of the climate emergency to limit global warning to 1.5°C – and, as a minimum, a tangible mechanism to keep 1.5 alive.

I tend to the view that all of it is laudable and a start but as ever we need action not words.

I have mentioned the absence of the Chinese President at the Conference. Russia’s President also did not attend albeit both countries sent high-ranking officials. We have the trite but illuminating issue of the 290 car motorcade from the USA and then on a much more serious note we can take as an example the fact that we are still at the point that the developed world has not delivered to poorer nations the $100 billion of funding promised in 2009 to pay for loss and damage caused by the 2020 deadline – or even by 2021. It’s all rather worrying for the likes of you and me who are doing our best to play our small part.


I welcome the fact that the necessity of capping temperature increases at 1.5 degrees is no longer questioned. However, the world is still on a path to temperature increases of well over 2 degrees – a death sentence for many parts of the world. To keep 1.5 degrees in reach, global emissions must be almost halved by the end of this decade. So the requirement for countries to come back next year with substantially increased nationally determined contributions is vital. Finance is crucial to faster progress and we will all have to hope that this will be delivered.

One thing we may all be able to do is to ensure that this issue stays at the top of the agenda and that all our politicians take real action is taken to tackle the climate change crisis.

You might also be interested in these articles:

Legal disclaimer

Stay up to date with the latest news and insights

Sign up now