COP 26 or COP-OUT 26?

Since the advent of the Twitter era, I have become wary of all media. It’s hard to keep abreast of world events and be confident that you’re getting accurate and balanced reports.

Therefore, reports that COP 26 in Glasgow last year was “a global north greenwash festival” as climate activist Greta Thunberg put it didn’t surprise me. It merely got me doing my own fact-finding. The upside of the Twitterverse is that we aren’t beholden to media barons anymore.

So, before we judge whether Greta Thunberg is correct let’s do a little background recap. COP stands for Congress of the Parties. The “parties” being the members of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This is a complicated business, but the important thing is that COP is the supreme decision-making body of the UNCCC. COP is the business end of the UNCCC stick. Meetings are held once a year.

Key moments in COP.

  • The UNCCC was established in 1994
  • The first COP was held in Berlin in 1995 with the goal to stabilize the greenhouse gas emissions and to protect the earth from the threat of climate change (That sounds pretty noble and straightforward)
  • In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was adopted setting binding emission reduction targets for thirty-seven developed countries and economies in transition and the European Union. The target was to average 5 percent emission reduction compared to 1990 levels 2008–2012. Developing countries were not expected to attain these targets.
  • In 2015 The Paris Agreement – a legally binding international treaty on climate change – was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.
  • In 2022 in Glasgow two issues were not settled: renewing targets for 2030 that align with limiting warming to 1.5℃, and an agreement on accelerating the phase-out of coal

Does this mean that Thunberg is correct? Or is she a media-savvy activist who realizes that by overstating a problem and being a thorn in the side she will goad authorities into acting quicker?

Yes and no. She isn’t correct. Those of us who have been around longer than Thunberg, know how hard it is for just two people to agree on which restaurant to eat at, so it’s understandable that 200-plus countries battle to agree on complex issues that affect their economies and the well-being of their citizens. Governments work slowly there is little one can do about that.

Two academics from Australia’s Griffith University, Robert Hales and Brendan Mackey disagree with Thunberg: “There were important decisions and notable bright spots. COP26 may well be seen later as the moment the world took an unambiguous turn away from fossil fuel as a source of energy”.

Agreements were made regarding ending deforestation, and re-committing to spend $100 billion per year for five years to help developing countries.

It is naive to think that climate change may be halted by decisions made at a single conference. If ever there was a big picture issue – Climate Change, is it. If we step back and look at everything that’s happened since 1994 there is no doubt that we are making progress in the right direction. We simply need to keep the momentum.

What does this “ambivalent” outcome mean for EVs?

Mostly positive. 36 countries, 36 cities and 10 auto manufacturers have recommitted to producing only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 or sooner. The developed countries have committed to assisting developing countries in making the transition. The list of signatories is interesting, but don’t look for South Africa, we didn’t sign. But neither did the USA. Yet California as well as its main cities LA, San Diego, and San Francisco put their names on the line. And we know if California gets behind something the rest of America always follows.


Other signatories of interest are states, automakers, fleet owners, and investors, and this is where I feel hopeful. If our major cities and banks collaborate with big fleet owners such as Anglo American, the taxi industry, and Unilever to commit to zero emissions, then they could give EV production and adoption the momentum it now lacks. I don’t think it’s a big IF, at all, it’s a big WHEN.

The 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 7-18 November 2022.

AUTHOR: Tim Sandham

Tim is a greying redhead who thinks green. He is the author of books on welding, soccer and Herman Charles Bosman

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