The heavily anticipated COP26 conference finished last week, but what did this historic event achieve?

Well one headline figure is that 140 countries have now made zero emission pledges, which represents 90% of all the entire world’s greenhouse emissions! Of course pledges are one thing, but it is key that countries are held to their promises, and there is still no method these can be enforced.

A really encouraging outcome was the pledge by more than 100 nations to reverse deforestation – including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo which account for 85% of the world’s forests!

However there were also elements that have been seen as a disappointment, the final pact only agreeing to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal as was initially hoped for. With coal being responsible for nearly half of all CO2 emissions, this represents a pretty major setback, but has moved language towards ending fossil fuels for the first time.

A global carbon market and rules for carbon trading have been set down from the agreement, which is encouraging given that there has never been consensus before – and has closed some glaring loopholes!  However, there is a risk that carbon trading risks being used as a “on-paper” method of reaching net zero whilst still creating major pollution.

One particularly positive part of this was the agreement to respect rights and obligations towards indigenous peoples and local communities who, despite typically living in a more sustainable way, are often more affected by both climate change and mitigation methods – although real action is needed behind this pledge.

Before the event the world was headed for a disastrous 2.7°C  warming by the end of the century, and estimates have suggested that all new targets set are met, this could be limited to 1.8°C –  which whilst a major improvement is still less than the 1.5°C target set as part of the Paris Agreement in 2016!

But by finalising many of the important parts of that agreement, COP26 has saved the possibility of the 1.5°C target being achieved  – but there is still so much more that needs to be done. The promises made are simply not ambitious enough and even then, a pledge does not necessarily translate to action.

The Glasgow Climate Pact is a small step where we need a giant leap. Perhaps the most important part of the deal was the agreement to meet next year and strengthen targets for 2030 – but unfortunately this means the world is still waiting for the real change we need.