COP26: A coal-fired discussion

Zubiya Jafri, Colchester County High School for Girls

Thursday November 4th 2021

Fourth of November was bursting with energy as talks of phasing out coal and moving towards a greener economy took the lead.

A Game-changing Pledge Made

Alok Sharma, President of COP26, looked positive as he said that “the end of coal is in sight.” Coal itself is one of the main fossil fuels used by many countries as a source of energy, however it is also one of the most polluting with 78 per cent carbon content. This makes it a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and hence has a negative impact on the climate. As a result, over 40 countries, including Indonesia, Ukraine and South Korea made a commitment to move away from coal. But time will tell if they remain true to their pledge. Despite this being an efficient energy transition, without the commitment from major coal dependent countries such as the US, China and Australia, efforts may result futile.

Big Emitters and Their Lack of Commitment

Along with talks of energy transition, wealthier countries reaffirmed their prior pledge made in the Paris Accords in 2015. They emphasised their goal to help developing nations shift away from fossil fuels and adapt to the impacts of climate change, by providing these countries with $100 billion per year. However, from 2015, they have failed to commit to their pledge. Without this support, poorer countries endure the worst effects of climate change from droughts to floods, despite contributing only a small amount to global greenhouse emissions.

Big emitters therefore must be held accountable for their contributions to climate change and urged to make commitments to shift their sources of energy, otherwise poorer countries will be hit the hardest because of other’s mistakes. As the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment ProgrammeInger Andersonsaid, “Those in poorer countries are going to suffer the very most so ensuring that a degree of equity and a degree of global solidarity for adaptation finance is critical.”

Moving Towards the Future

In the future, to have a greater impact in the fight against climate change, fossil fuels must be phased out completely and a complete shift to renewable energy may be needed to make that difference in meeting the goal to keep temperatures close to 1.5C. The continuation of the use of non-renewable energy, specifically fossil fuels, is not a sustainable source of energy. Along with the fact that it is limited, the aftermath of burning fossil fuels is the unforgiving increase in greenhouse gases, leading to global warming (which has its own set of consequences, such as rising sea levels as glaciers melt). So, for my future this agreement is “moving in the right direction,” as Alok Sharma added, in reducing carbon emissions, however it is not happening fast enough.

Murray Worthy, campaign leader of Global Witness (an International NGO) made a valid point in saying that coal is already “entering a terminal decline” and that the emissions from other fossil fuels like oil and gas “have already far outstrip coal and are booming.”

For my future, for our future, this is the best chance that we have in creating a cleaner environment for ourselves and generations to come. Therefore, future talks must take a more holistic approach and appreciate the overall impact of non-renewable energy: they must consider how, globally, countries can shift towards renewable energy such as solar or hydroelectricity in a quick and swift way. So that through this change, they may adapt to the changing climate whilst protecting our planet.

Was it Effective?

Thursday 4th of November was a way for countries to make small but effective changes to the uses of energy globally, with new pledges made to phase out coal and even old pledges renewed, but “an agreement that only tackles coal doesn’t even solve half the problems,” as Murray Worthy emphasised.

So, I leave you with one more outlook - this is a small step forward when what we needed was a big leap. We must look onward into making energy talks broader and considering a bigger change to renewable energy. This way we can decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and meet our goals of lower carbon emissions.

So let us look onwards to our brighter, cleaner future with goals fuelling our progress and the thought of how we have the chance to rid our planet of polluting gases, lighting our passion to protect planet Earth, because this is our future. Our planet.






Read the other reports from our budding journalists to hear the important views from young people on all things COP26.


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