My Week at COP 26, Part 2

By Ben Eckstein

The 26th COP event has proven to not only be an annual conference to share lessons and negotiate global climate deals, but also an annual time to reflect on this process. Although COP 26 has been criticized in numerous ways over the last few weeks for failing to establish meaningful climate goals, I will be commenting on my observations concerning how inclusion played a role at this event and these negotiations.

As stated in my last post, a prevailing theme of the conference was the implementation of natural solutions vs technical solutions.  Technical solutions, which utilizes modern technology to assist with climate adaptation or mitigation, is not necessarily better than natural solutions, but are used for different purposes. Countries able to leverage expertise and capital to fund the research and implementation of technical solutions in addition to natural solutions are more likely to result in a more resilient city.

It was clear that the more developed countries (Global North) utilized a more robust set of technical solutions compared to less developed countries (Global South). For example, United States Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, presented about the importance of carbon capture technology, and how pilot programs can begin to break down barriers to implementation.

Countries in the Global South however, are far less likely to have access to capital or the expertise needed to implement costly and complex technology. This means that more natural solutions must be used in order to ensure long term sustainability. There are many factors working against these countries:


  • Empty Promises: One of the many goals of COP is to negotiate and establish ambitious carbon reduction goals, with the aim to avoid a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The issue here is that these treaties, including the Glasgow Climate Pact, is non-binding. One of these nonbinding promises from the Paris Climate Agreement (COP 21) was to send $100 billion in public and private resources, starting 2020, to developing countries to be used to invest in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Not only was this $100B underfunded, but there was little response during the Glasgow negotiations when developing countries expressed disappointment in this.


  • Meaningful Inclusion: The Global South is responsible for over 80% of the world’s biodiversity, yet are largely not responsible for the emissions being released into the atmosphere. Yet despite experiencing the brunt of the effects of climate change, developing countries continually face barriers at COP itself. This includes the cost of travel and living in a foreign city for 2 weeks, the language barrier of a predominantly English speaking event, and lack of decision making power.


  • Prioritizing Social Wellbeing: One of the disappointments that has come out of the Glasgow Climate Pact was that many developing countries disagreed with the language of “phasing out coal” and argued for a change to “phase DOWN coal”. Although the language has only changed slightly, this is a key difference in how the Glasgow Climate Pact will be acted upon. Since there are no set targets of coal reduction for countries to achieve, the phase down for coal could simply mean lower consumption than in the year 2021. This would result in lower reductions of coal consumption than initially hope by using the “phase out” language. This language dispute was supported by many developing countries, as it is much harder for these countries to make drastic shifts in their energy infrastructure, while simultaneously working on issues of social wellbeing.


Despite issues with the organization and inclusion in the COP event, I still believe there is benefit to convening annually to reaffirm goals, renegotiate deals, and reassess the current path forward.  Events like these are standard for nearly every industry in the world, and I truly believe that changing this event to emphasize inclusion will result in better, more comprehensive negotiations. The opportunity is present to make this event better, provided that the criticisms are heard and acted upon. As it stands, I cannot say with confidence that the issues needed to be addressed, will be.