Cough Cough - clean energy discussions at COP26

Holly Kemp, Dereham Sixth Form College

Thursday 4th November 2021

The topic on the fifth day of the COP26 proceedings was clean energy. Countries discussed how the single biggest cause of global temperature rise is the use of coal for power. Today, 40 countries have made commitments to phase out coal power and to ‘scale up’ cleaner energy methods. This agreement included South Korea, Egypt, Nepal and Vietnam; some of which are part of the world’s top 20 coal-using countries. The UK also supported this statement. COP26 President Alok Sharma stated how he is “pleased to say that coal financing has been well and truly choked off.” In addition to this, developed nations have pledged to support developing countries with this transition.

However, Japan has been one of the few to not participate in this pledge – they still rely on coal power heavily. Protestors gathered outside of the Scottish Event Campus dressed up as the Japanese Pokémon character Pikachu, carrying a banner reading “Japan, time to end coal”, calling for the country to end its support for coal power. China and the US also failed to back the statement, currently with no plans to eliminate the use of other fossil fuels either.

On the other hand, a different joint statement was formed around the issue of the financing of fossil fuels overseas, ending “new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022... consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit and the goal of the Paris Agreement.” This agreement is being supported by 20 countries. Even though this is few, the statement is supported by countries such as the US, the UK and Canada, giving it credibility. This is a start for these countries, although it is an outcome some people were not particularly pleased about, including shadow business secretary Ed Miliband, claiming that “any progress towards powering past coal is welcome, but glaring gaps remain”.

The absence of many politicians' actions and belief in climate change is the main reason why the planet is in the state it is now. Donald Trump was and is still known for claiming that “global warming is an expensive hoax.” However, as Joe Biden makes his appearance at COP26 in Glasgow, aiming to debunk the previous president’s claims, he also shows that he is working towards a hopeful future for generation Z. However, from what we have seen today, his actions still speak louder than words. Not agreeing with the statement to phase out coal as an electricity source for the US reveals how little developed countries care about developing countries’ struggles, who already see the impact of a changing climate in their everyday lives.

Currently in attendance among the many at COP26 is Greta Thunberg, who mentioned on Twitter today that “#COP26 has been named the most excluding COP ever. This is no longer a climate conference. This is a Global North greenwash festival. A two-week[HV3] celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.” In many ways, she is correct. The future of Gen Z may look bright on the outside, but will the countries in question stick to their claims made during COP26?

On the other hand, the continued hope that all 197 countries present at the two-week summit will begin making changes is a start. The future of the next generation on this planet still hangs in the balance. Business and the economy should not be the number one priority. Our future is.

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