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COP26 Climate Talks Leave a Large Carbon Footprint, Report Says

The carbon footprint of this year’s United Nations climate summit is expected to be double that of the previous conference in 2019, according to a report produced for the British government.

The COP26 summit in Glasgow, which is scheduled to end on Friday, is projected to generate emissions that are equivalent to about 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide, says a report compiled by Arup, a professional services firm, and first reported by The Scotsman.

About 60 percent of those emissions are estimated to come from international flights, while accommodations, policing for the event, local transportation and energy for the venue make up other large portions, the report said.

The environmental impact of the summit did not go unnoticed inside the hall. Vanessa Nakate, a climate activist from Uganda, on Thursday called out business leaders and investors, saying they had not taken immediate action but instead were “flying into COP on private jets” and “making fancy speeches.”

Previous climate summits had much smaller carbon footprints, including COP25 in Madrid in 2019, which emitted the equivalent of 51,101 tons of carbon dioxide.

Not all COP events leave behind a carbon footprint. The host government for COP20 in Lima, Peru, in 2014 offset all emissions, according to the United Nations.

Cansin Leylim of 350.org, an organization working to end the age of fossil fuels, said the focus should not be on the summit’s emission numbers.

“The question shouldn’t be how do we reduce emissions at these type of events, but how do we speed up the phasing out all fossil fuels, end fossil finance and leverage the climate finance needed to support a global just transition, so that we don’t have to have these type of conferences in the first place,” she said.

Dr. Stephen Allen, an expert on energy and carbon analysis at the University of Bath in England, said in-person negotiations were sometimes critical to progress on issues like climate change.

“It is a big number,” he said of the summit’s projected carbon footprint. “But it is essential that we get an international commitment. I suppose in a way, we’re investing carbon emissions in trying to secure a good international agreement that then leads to really big carbon savings.”

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