Global leaders secured two advancements on climate change at the United Nations summit on Tuesday, but major challenges remain, say Northeastern climate scientists. Nations at the 26th Conference of the Parties, or COP26, agreed to curb methane emissions and to end deforestation by 2030—both significant developments, says Laura Kuhl, assistant professor of public policy and urban affairs and international affairs at Northeastern.
The pledge to end deforestation “is a breakthrough,” says Kuhl, who is running a one-credit pop-up course tied to the two-week climate summit. “One of the things that makes it different is the involvement by a lot of supply-chain actors, particularly soy and palm oil manufacturers.” Securing the support of two industries that are drivers of deforestation “makes it much more likely that there will actually be implementation” of the pledge, Kuhl says. At the same time, she says, companies and governments don’t always follow through on their promises.
Kuhl’s pop-up course includes 30 students who have U.N. badges and will be official virtual observers. Throughout COP26, students will meet virtually with negotiators and other experts, observe formal negotiations, and participate in related events.