November 5, 2021

“Either we stop it – or it stops us”

It is with these words that UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierres began his speech at the opening of COP26 in Glasgow, and clearly stated that it was “time to say enough”.
Other leaders, such as the President of the United States, gave speeches that echoed a strong desire to address the challenges of climate change, and now. This sets the tone for a week that must be a turning point in the fight against global warming which, let's be honest, has not lived up to the expectations of the Paris Agreement so far.

Will we (finally) move from declaration to action?

The question is deliberately provocative but nevertheless relevant. History has often shown that humankind realizes the need to act once the evidence is established. The latter has unfortunately increased between the Paris Agreement and this COP26, where we have faced the six hottest years on record, and several climate disasters have proven the urgency to act. From now on, countries are being asked to come forward with tangible and ambitious actions to reach targets that align with net zero by the middle of the century.

The first stones of this edifice were laid at the beginning of the summit, tackling deforestation. Among them, the commitment of a hundred or so countries, including Indonesia, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of Congo - which together account for around 85% of the world's forests - to stop deforestation by 2030, removing CO2e and providing carbon sinks. Investments of USD 19 billion will be divided between public and private funding, with the aim not only of halting deforestation, but above all, reversing this trend. It is to be hoped that these commitments will be kept this time. Indeed, a previous agreement in 2014 simply failed. But it is now even more crucial than before to capture CO2 and restore the balance of our ecosystem. This commitment was also signed by several financial institutions, which should help to move away from investments in supply chains with a high risk of deforestation.

Finance and energy as primary works

In total, a dozen declarations were made on the first two days alone. There is real hope for the coming ones, but many of these commitments currently contain a lot of conditionality and (too?) few constraints. Like COP15 on biodiversity few weeks ago, the term "moment of truth" resonated throughout the COP26 building. However, it remains to be seen whether all the actors will be able to agree on concrete measures this time.

We will certainly have some answers in the coming days as finance and energy will be on the agenda. Systemic changes to live in a net zero environment and real cooperation between regions of the world are necessary, as these two themes are essential to make coal a history, accelerate electric vehicles productions and invest in renewables.

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