Will COP26 bring a greener future?

The hype surrounding COP26 has died down from our media news feeds, but did you hear anything about how it will bring about a greener future for us individuals? After discussions on methane and deforestation, the other large talking point was coal. When taking a look at all the different results of COP26 this one was potentially the most disappointing and confusing. We’re going to take a look at the involvement of coal in bringing a greener future to the UK.

The ‘phasing-down of unabated coal’ for us in the UK 

While it looked promising for a moment that coal was going to be phased out in the future, the last-minute change requested from India, meant that the term changed to ‘phase down’ for unabated coal. Sounds rather complex, doesn’t it.  

This result of COP26 means that eliminating the use of coal across the globe is no longer the goal, simply using it less. What’s worse, is that the term unabated is related to the strongest forms of coal (the most pollutive). 

So, the big question we all face is how will this impact our lifestyles? Perhaps the most obvious is that if you have a coal-fired burner in your home, you’ll need to make some changes sooner rather than later. Especially with the UK date set to phase out coal-fired power by 2024. But also, it might be worth taking a look at your energy supplier. Although many say that they use renewable energy, going green is not quite that simple. 

When renewables struggle to provide electricity and gas, coal steps in. 90% renewable energy often means 10% coal. If you can, look into how much renewable energy your supplier promises and seek 100% where possible.

If suddenly you’re thinking that your energy isn’t green enough, don’t worry, there are solutions out there. Swapping suppliers (especially at this unpredictable time) or even installing greener technologies in your home is a big task. But the smallest action can make a difference. Even adjusting the temperature slightly by 1 degree can save you up to £80 a year on costs. Not to mention 340kg CO2e per year on your carbon footprint. This way you reduce your demand for renewables and help reduce coal from being circulated into use. 

The sticking point in the UK’s plans 

Phasing out coal-fired power by 2024 is a great target. However, you may have recently heard about a new deep coal mine for coking coal. It all sounds a little contradictory on the surface, so we dug deep to try and find some sort of logic behind this decision. 

Creating the mine is expected to remove the carbon impact of the coal we already import from Australia and the US. Fewer miles, less carbon, but just how damaging will a mine be in our own borders? It will create hundreds more jobs and support the British steel industry, but where is the tipping point between beneficial and harmful for this mine? 

It’s a catch 22. Let us know your opinions in the comments below, would you benefit from the mine? We’re hoping that the UK Government is planning to advance carbon capture and storage technologies enough so that by the time the mine becomes a climate issue, a solution is already prepared.  

Does the result of COP26 reach a 1.5 degree limit on global warming? 

There’s one figure that sticks out during COP meetings. That crucial number of global temperature rise. Initially, the aim was 2 degrees, but after the Paris Agreement, it was amended to 1.5 degrees. Now, thanks to the result of COP26, it is estimated that the pledged changes will only limit the average temperate increase to 2.1 degrees by the end of the century. While it’s not the magic number we had hoped for it is significantly lower than the original trajectory of 4 degrees. 

What does a 2.1 degree increase mean for us? Well, you can expect the summers to get hotter and longer and for coastlines to disappear. It’s estimated that with this sort of rise in temperature, the rise in sea level will be more than 0.66m for 70% of the world’s coastlines. It may not seem a lot for areas inland like Wokingham, but Folkestone, Whitstable and Dungeness are expected to be completely submerged by 2050. 

120 nations have pledged to reduce emissions by 2030. That’s just 8 years away. Knowing the Governments intentions will help make you aware of what can change in your everyday lifestyle. Phasing out of coal – keep an eye on the price of fuel, steel and more importantly start investing in your home, especially if you use coal for heating it. Another area to pay close attention to is greener technologies as the carbon market starts to come to the forefront. Can you use greener modes of transport? 

At this stage, there is no direct announcement for how lifestyles will change. But being aware of these areas under scrutiny can point you in the direction of where they may go. Keep doing your bit and be ready for a greener future.

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