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What Is COP26, And How Can We Help The Environment?

Posted by Thandiubani on Fri 19th Nov, 2021 -

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, held between 31st October and 12th November this year.

person holding there is no planet b poster

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash
If there’s one thing that we have realised in the last few years, it’s the importance of sustainability and protecting our beautiful environment. 
This has been highlighted even more recently, as COP26 gets underway in Glasgow, Scotland. 
COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, held between 31st October and 12th November this year. 
What has happened so far? 
So far, there have been a few shocking statistics and pledges made by various governmental bodies. Here are just a few of them. 
The world is on track to heat up more than 2.4 degrees centigrade
And this is an amount that’s devastating for the environment. While 2.4 degrees doesn’t seem like a lot more when you’re sitting on a beach or walking out of the door on a cold winter’s day, this amount could be the tipping point for a lot of our natural icebergs, flora and fauna. 
The most notable thing that this climate change would do is melt icebergs around the North and South Pole. This would cause sea rises, causing devastation to islands and low-lying areas. It could also cause severe heatwaves, which could correspond to drought and fiercer storms. This could cause immense devastation to particular areas. 
Of course, nothing’s set in stone yet - but this is the way that the world is heading, and this is far above the absolute maximum of 2 degrees set at the Paris accord. They stated that the temperature needed to stay ‘well below’ this. It is also nearly a whole degree more than the 1.5 degree limit which the world is currently aiming for. 
India pledges net-zero by 2070
India is one of the largest countries in the world, and one that causes the most pollution - the Financial Times even called it the most polluted country on earth
Still, the authorities are trying to change this. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that he aims to achieve net-zero by 2070. Net-zero is when the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stay constant - if some are produced, the same amount is taken out. 
India is rapidly rising in wealth, so the prime minister is hopeful that they can use this wealth to invest in various eco-friendly initiatives. 
This pledge was met with positivity, although some people have remarked that it is 20 years past the dates when other countries are aiming for. However, it is certainly a step in the right direction. 

Key nations pledge to cut methane by 30% by 2030
2070 seems like a very long way away, but 2030 is only eight years away. 
Over 100 nations have signed the Global Methane Pledge, promising to cut their methane consumption by 30% before this date. Methane is a particularly potent form of greenhouse gas and is a significant contributor to climate change. 
This pledge should help cut methane by 50 million tonnes - a considerable amount, but still 80 million tonnes of the 130 million tonne target, which has been set as the best target to keep global warming down to 1.5 degrees. 
Nations pledge to end deforestation by 2030
Deforestation is devastating. Trees filter greenhouse gases and produce oxygen, creating cleaner environments. Plus, forests are often home to many animals, some of which are at risk of extinction. Without these animals, ecosystems could collapse. 
One hundred world leaders, including Jair Bolsarno of Brazil - where vast areas of the Amazon Rainforest have been cut down - have signed a pledge to end deforestation by 2030
They have put $19.2 billion behind this pledge. Environmental leaders have welcomed it but commented that it needs to be actioned on, as a similar pledge in 2014 has not had any results. 
How can we help? 
While COP26 is very important, only a few people can make the big necessary changes here. However, there are a few things that we can all do to reduce our individual carbon footprints. These include: 
While travel is a hobby for many and a lifestyle for some, it is crucial to travel sustainably. Planes emit a huge amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so taking trains can be a much more feasible option. 
While you’re at the destination, you could try to get around as much as possible by walking or using public transport. Opt to stay in eco-friendly hotels (check their policies on their website) and try to eat out at local restaurants where the ingredients are fresh and seasonal. 
Virtual travel could always be an option, too. Virtual tours are available through companies like HeyGo, where a registered tour guide takes you around famous cities and tourist destinations. You could also try virtual food or wine tasting sessions. There are even virtual casinos and virtual nightclubs nowadays! 
The world’s most eco-friendly diet is a tricky one to pin down. So instead of pigeonholing yourself into one particular diet, here are a few key points to try and eat more sustainably. 
  • Reduce the amount of meat and animal products that you eat or cut them out entirely. 
  • If you do eat meat, eat locally-reared animals from farms that use sustainable practices. This might mean shopping at a speciality butcher. 
  • Try to eat fruit and vegetables that have been grown in your country. Even better if you grow them yourself! 
  • Try to avoid plastic when food shopping - purchase products in glass (which is much easier to recycle) or loose. 
We can also try to make sustainable choices in regards to the products that we use. For example, you could opt for solid shampoo bars and conditioners that aren’t sold in plastic packaging, or support companies who take initiatives to be carbon neutral. 
This involves a bit of research. There are some tips for finding eco-friendly products here; once you have found a ‘good product’, you can add it to a list and refer to it when you need to buy more things. 
Remember, every product has an eco-cost, so consider whether you can buy pre-used products or make it yourself before purchasing. 
Companies you support
It’s important to choose eco-friendly companies when buying products, but it’s also a good idea to invest in other sustainably-minded companies. 
For example, if you support an eco-friendly gas or electricity provider, you enable them to grow and reach more people. 
It’s a good idea to list the main companies you support and assess whether they are eco-friendly, making switches if you can. 
The statistics broadcasted at COP26 seem scary, but provided people take action now, they can be turned around. World leaders are responsible for the significant changes, but we can all make small changes at home. 
If all of these small changes come together, they can turn into a positive environmental force, creating the changes we all wish to see.



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