A cardboard sign with the words "Listen to the Science" written on it is taped to the back of a woman's backpack, as she walks through a crowd

COP26 Compendium

By Liane Miedema Brown

As a community, the University of Guelph has a wealth of environmental experts: engineers, mathematicians, agronomists, chemists, biologists, artists, geographers, historians, sociologists, and economists, among many other professionals. The Guelph Institute for Environmental Research (GIER) seeks to bring that community together for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary work. With the end of COP26, GIER is collecting thoughts and opinions from our affiliates from range of environmental perspectives to give context, and share hopes, and disappointments on the outcomes of this international conference.

If you would like to contribute a statement or opinion, please reach out to us: info.gier@uoguelph.ca

Soils play a key role in agriculture and in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Soils and subsoils are key protagonists in the Earth’s hydrologic cycle, which in turn is also intimately tied to the carbon cycle. Soils and subsoils are not only natural carbon reservoirs but also carbon sinks for our efforts to curb the atmospheric rise in CO2. Notably, the COP26 statements on “Innovation in Agriculture”, “Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade”, and “Sustainable Agriculture and Land-Use” lack the word “soil”. We both impact and benefit from what is below the Earth’s surface, and this is central to the work happening in Guelph on climate-smart soils and enhanced rock weathering to mitigate climate change.”

Rafael Santos, PhD, PEng | Assistant Professor
School of Engineering

In negotiating how we are going to effect change within our countries, we must intentionally shy away from actions that cause pulse-like, temporary, effects. Instead, we must look to all our systems and re-create them to ensure that what we do now is valued and improved upon permanently. Our efforts must recognise the importance of education and inclusive action or we will fail to sustain the changes that we need.

Shoshanah Jacobs, PhD | Associate Professor
Department of Integrative Biology

It was good to see that, for the first time on the international stage, there was a discussion forum about water resources and in particular about groundwater. Groundwater plays a critical role in sustaining surface water bodies, ecosystems, and human needs, including the water we drink and the food we grow, so it is promising that COP26 recognized that groundwater sustainability is a key piece of the puzzle. The Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) at COP26 emphasized the ways that groundwater can enhance adaptation to climate scenarios, and they are right to do so. Groundwater’s role is becoming increasingly important as climate change impacts the hydrological cycle, making surface water resources more erratic, and prone to more frequent floods and droughts. The research conducted at the Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute at the University of Guelph is aimed at improving our understanding of the physical and chemical processes occurring in groundwater using a multidisciplinary approach at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Studying these subsurface processes and their link with the surface components of the hydrologic cycle is necessary to shape effective policies and adaptation strategies. Groundwater sustainability is just one piece of the puzzle, but an important one, and critical within the hydrologic aspects, that offers an opportunity to improve the long-term wellbeing of communities and ecosystems worldwide.

Beth Parker, PhD, FCAE, BCEEM | Professor and Director
Morwick G360 Groundwater Research Institute

COP26 was widely billed as a make-or-break opportunity to finally get serious about climate change. In reality, it was part of a much longer process begun in the 1980s. This year’s Conference of the Parties will be remembered for its high-profile commitments on fighting deforestation, reducing global methane emissions, and laying the foundations for a global carbon market. But it will also be remembered for failing to reach consensus on highly divisive issues, including climate finance and energy poverty. The world’s wealthiest industrialized countries inability to meet their longstanding commitment to provide $100bn a year for climate adaptation and mitigation in the Global South was widely reported, and while the conference ended with a renewed commitment to this target, many observers remain understandably skeptical. COP26 will also be remembered for the last-minute deal-making to “phase down” – as opposed to “phase out” – the use of coal-fired power plants, reinforcing the fact that large emitters like China and India (as well as many parts of Europe and North America) remain highly dependent on burning coal. If history is anything to go by, COPs that fail to meet their expectations lay the foundations for future breakthroughs – as was the case with the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Much will depend on the ability of the international community—which includes environmentalists, cities, local communities, and businesses, as well as heads of state—to put equity, sustainability, and justice at the heart of future international efforts to tackle climate change.

Craig Johnson, PhD | Professor and Director  
Guelph Institute of Development Studies 

Relevant Guelph News

Ecologist Discusses Challenges of COP26 Deforestation Pledge

When Group Conflicts Heat Up So Does the Earth UofG Study

What does the COP26 Agreement to Stop or Reduce Deforestation Mean for Canada?

Madhur Anand, PhD | Professor and Director

Guelph Institute for Environmental Research

UofG Researcher Part of International Study Examining Wow We Are Adapting to Climate Change

Emily Duncan, MSc | PhD Candidate

Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics

Lang Students Place in the Top 5 at COP26 Global Sport Sustainability Hackathon

Lianne Foti, PhD | Professor and Assistant Director

International Institute for Sport Business and Leadership

Arrell Director Discusses Global Hunger with CBC News Network

Solving Hunger Will Take Social Policies and Investing in Technology, Says Expert

Evan Fraser, PhD | Professor and Director

Arrell Food Institute

Farmers Fight Climate Change

Jon Warland, PhD | Associate Dean

Ontario Agricultural College

To learn more about the outcomes of the COP26, check out their official webpage:  https://ukcop26.org/the-conference/cop26-outcomes/

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