Aerial image of an Asháninka village in the rainforest.

Your COP26 Questions Answered

As COP26 draws to a close, our Director Matthew Owen answers the questioned you asked us, and explains why we remain optimistic even when pledges look to fall short.

Nestled among the trees, the Asháninka village of Taroveni is deep in the Peruvian Amazon.

COP26 focuses on a commitment to end deforestation by 2030. Is this possible?

In short, it’s not likely.

For 24 hours at COP26 the focus was on forests and, even for a COP-cynic, that felt worth celebrating.

But once the small print was published on the ‘ultimate forest deal’ it was clear that we’ve been here before. Brazil may have signed up but just like in 2016, everything was easy-in and easy-out. And let’s face it, the last big forest deal promised a 50% cut in deforestation by 2020 (it, in fact, increased) so this will frustratingly be a very easy commitment for leaders to walk away from.

So many references to indigenous peoples at COP26. Great news?

Let’s hope so. Long before that Paris agreement, it has been indigenous people leading the fight against deforestation. Yet it is hard to find a government that has been on their side. At this COP we counted 124 speeches that used the term ‘indigenous’ and yet couldn’t find a single binding commitment to providing local communities with funding. Maybe this will emerge in the coming months. Whatever happens, Cool Earth will increase its funding to indigenous communities this year.

What’s to be optimistic about?

We have 100 things but I’d focus on three:

1. The fossil carbon industry is in hiding. They had lots of lobbyists buzzing around, but they have lost their voice.

2. There’s a real methane deal. Oh-so technical, but essential.

3. The message is getting through. Rainforest is #1 on the climate to-do list. Protecting tropical forests is 1000 x more important than planting afresh.