COP26 was originally meant to take place in 2020. However, due to COVID-19 it was postponed. Now the event has happened, was it worth the wait? 
 
Circulating online, we have seen the words "COP26 has failed" thrown around our newsfeeds. But is this the right way to sum up the event? Why admit defeat when we still have such a long way to go? When we see the word “failure” it would be natural for us to want to give up the fight. But this shouldn’t be the case. 

At Ocean Generation we don’t think this should be the case.  No, it's not been plain sailing, but what did anyone honestly expect? Yes, we’ve got a long way to go but we think this is battle nobody can afford to lose. So we’re going to keep positively pushing for change – are you with us for the ride? 

Yes, more needs to be done to protect our Ocean and keep the global temperature at 1.5C. But as Yuval Noah Harari put it, “There are more numbers to focus on than just 1.5 degrees. There are other numbers to focus on that give us hope.”  

After attending over 40 COP events we’ve seen commitments to invest in blue carbon, commitments to support the 30 x 30 campaign, marine protected areas are doubling, and more.  

We also saw a rise in youth group numbers, gender equality discussions, and indigenous people from the climate frontlines bringing their stories forward to those who need to hear them most. This is a great step in the right direction. We need all voices in the room if we want to make real change. We were so glad to see a much broader representation at this COP, from the President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, to 19 year old Climate Justice Activist, Xiye Bastida.  

How successful has COP26 been for our Ocean?  

Before the start of COP26 we here at OG wanted to set out our own objectives, and focus on the key outcomes of what success looked like to us

And has it delivered? Yes and no.  

This year we saw more discussions taking place around the importance of our Ocean in mitigating climate change, our Ocean as blue carbon sink, and seeing the Ocean as a solution. There was a real sense of the Ocean being seen as a solution to the climate crisis, opposed to a victim. This was a breath of fresh air.  

Here are a few of the notable outcomes: 

  • Ecuador is expanding Galápagos marine reserve by nearly 50%.
  • Colombia is more than doubling the size of marine protected area.
  • Panama, Ecuador,Colombia and Costa Rica will create a > 500,000 sq km marine sanctuary. 
  • The United States is joining theHigh Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. 
  • The Ocean Panel aims to advance the values of a sustainable Ocean economy—effective protection, sustainable production and more scientific research invested.
  • On Ocean Day (5thNov), The UK Presidency called world leaders to take steps towards Ocean health to achieve net zero ambitions and keep a rise of no more than 1.5°C within reach. 
  • What has the UK promised?
  • £6 million contribution to PROBLUE, a World Bank fund that looks at a range ofOcean issues. 
  • $20 million in commitments to drive health and resilience of the Ocean and climate vulnerable communities.
  • £1 million contribution to the Global Fund for Coral Reefs.
  • £400,000 to support the government of Fiji in issuing its first sovereign blue bond.
  • Over 100 countries now support the 30x30 target for our Ocean.
  • More work put into the evidence of blue carbon habitats in the UK, such as saltmarsh and seagrass being a carbon sink.

Even though more needs to be done to protect our Ocean, these are great starting points that need to be built on. These commitments must be followed up with on the ground action, through governments and institutions working together, listening to the science, and putting profit to one side.  

Sir David Attenborough brought this message home for us all. Collaboration is key.  

"If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it." Sir David Attenborough.

Are these outcomes good enough? 

Helen Mountford of the World Resources Institute, said: "We have two different truths here…We've made much more progress in some ways than we could have ever imagined even in a couple of years ago, but at the same time we're nowhere near enough."   

Global temperatures are set to keep on rising, money is still being invested into fossil fuels and people are angry.   

There will always be ‘more’ to do when it comes to the climate crisis. But we need to see the discussions that have taken place at COP26 as building blocks, that governments and institutions will develop. As Barack Obama, former President of the United States said, “We will face more setbacks, sometimes we will be forced to settle for imperfect compromises. Because even if they don’t achieve everything we want, at least they advance the cause.”