New Scientist assesses outcomes from COP26

I'm sharing the latest and last in New Scientist's COP26 newsletters from Adam Vaughan. Adam ends by quoting Greta Thunberg in what could be a rallying cry for activists.

An attendee at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, UK Photo: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Is the 1.5°C goal still alive? The answer is a good way to boil down the mind-boggling complexity of whether the COP26 summit, which finished in dramatic fashion last Saturday, puts humanity on the path that climate science calls for.

Six years ago in Paris, 195 countries committed to this temperature goal as their line in the sand for limiting future global warming, in addition to holding it “well below” 2°C. Yet the emissions-cutting plans put forward in 2015 left the world facing a cataclysmic 3.5°C of warming by 2100.

That is why nations in Paris also agreed a “ratchet mechanism” to upgrade the plans by the end of 2020. Many missed the deadline, so COP26 in Glasgow, UK, became the de facto cut-off point. This first crank of the ratchet yielded a mixed bag of plans. Some big emitters, including the European Union, Japan, the UK and the US, significantly deepened how much they say they will cut emissions by the end of the decade. China and India upped their ambition, but their emissions will still rise this decade. Many other sizeable polluters, including Australia, Brazil and Indonesia, didn’t issue improved plans.</