COP26 is in full swing. At the global conference in Glasgow, world leaders have begun locking in pledges to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change. It’s only the fourth day of the conference, but already some major agreements have been struck. From fighting deforestation to methane, here are six of the most notable so far.
- Countries that collectively account for 85 percent of the world’s forests — including Brazil, home to most of the Amazon rainforest — signed an agreement to halt and reverse deforestation by the end of this decade. The deal covers more than 13 million square miles of forest. As part of the agreement, investors overseeing $8.7 trillion in assets agreed to divest from activities linked to deforestation by 2025.
- Over 100 countries agreed to cut global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, accounts for one-third of human-caused global warming. But it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere for as long as carbon dioxide, which is why the EU Commission chief said this pledge was “one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming.”
- The U.S. rejoined the High Ambition Coalition, a group of countries committed to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and achieving net-zero global emissions by the second half of the century. Former President Donald Trump had effectively withdrawn the U.S. from the coalition when he pulled out of the Paris Agreement, a move President Biden apologized to the conference for.
- India surprised everyone with an announcement that it will aim to get half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. But India’s targets may not be as ambitious as they seem. It is one of the most coal-committed countries, which means the nonrenewable half of its energy mix may be particularly toxic. And its net-zero pledge is a full decade later than China’s, and two decades later than the world as a whole needs to achieve net-zero emissions to halt warming at 1.5 Celsius.
- Ecuador said it will greatly expand the nature reserve around the Galapagos Islands, adding 23,000 protected square miles to its current 50,000 square miles. The Galapagos, which sit at the confluence of three major ocean currents, are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise, and the expansion is meant to protect the archipelago’s fragile biodiversity.
- Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people on earth, pledged $2 billion to restoring natural habitats, and said that Amazon, the company he founded, would be powered entirely by renewable energy by 2025. But for some, the promises by Bezos, who recently flew into space, rung hollow — Amazon’s emissions from indirect sources in 2020 increased by 15 percent over the previous year.
These are some of the biggest climate action commitments in recent memory, and COP26 is about as big a stage as one could make them on. Will those who pledged such drastic changes follow through? As with all long-range plans, that question remains to be answered. We’ll be watching closely.