Carbon Footprint of COP26 Compared: See Full Table With Graphics

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 26, 2024

Even after efforts to promote sustainability — the low-flush toilets, reusable coffee cups, paperless draft documents, and locally sourced vegetarian haggis — the carbon footprint of COP26 may be the highest of all UN (United Nations) climate summits.

From private flights (lots of them) to massive energy sues to house and host the conference, the emissions generated by this attempt to reduce emissions has caused many people to question the purpose.

This article discusses everything you need to know about the carbon footprint of COP26 and how these levels can be easily reduced with a few changes (like using commercial flights instead of private ones).

What Is the Carbon Footprint of COP26?

The carbon footprint of COP26 is about 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide. That is equivalent to the total annual average emissions for more than 8,000 UK (United Kingdom) residents.

Around 60 percent of COP26 emissions came from international flights.11

Other major contributors include local energy and water, waste management, transportation to and from venues, accommodations for delegates and participants, and security and policing for the event.

By far, COP26 is the most carbon-intensive UN climate summit. By comparison, the 2015 COP21 in Paris emitted about 43,000 tons of carbon dioxide, while the 2019 COP25 in Madrid emitted about 51,101 tons of carbon dioxide.

The table below shows the carbon footprint of COP meetings as held throughout the years:

COP Summit Tons of CO2
COP 26 102,500
COP 25 51,101
COP 24 55,000
COP 21 43,000
COP 20 50,000
COP 17 15,000
COP 14 40,000
COP 13 60,000

Largest Contributors of the Carbon Footprint of COP26

By far, COP26 is the most carbon-intensive climate summit.

In attendance were 120 world leaders, more than 40,000 registered participants, 14,000 observers, and 3,000 media representatives, most of who used air travel to get to the event.

Glasgow, the host country, has 15,000 hotels, all of which were booked by delegates, official observers, and media representatives.

Moreover, security personnel slept on camping cots in a forty-person dormitory built in one of the luxurious hotels, contributing to global CO2 emissions.

With twenty-four-hour energy consumption, production of guest consumables, laundry facilities, and waste disposal, the hotels dumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than other building categories.

Bar graph representation of fossil fuel carbon emissions distribution world wide.

COP26 Goals: COP26 Sustainable Development Goals

To slow the intensification of climate change, COP26 is structured around four overarching goals:

1. Secure COP26 Net Zero By 2050 and Limit Global Warming to 1.5°C

The main goal of COP26 is to ensure that Article 2 of The Paris Agreement — which seeks to ensure that the goal of preventing global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius — remains achievable.

Currently, the world is nowhere near meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

The Emissions Gap Report (EGR) 2021 confirms that considering current mitigation measures and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the world is en route to a global temperature rise of 2.7 Celsius by the end of the century.10

COP26 seeks to address this gap by combining different tactics, including:

  • Encouraging countries to exceed and strengthen their 2030 NDCs
  • Finalizing unfinished aspects of the Paris Rulebook to facilitate the 1.5 Celsius target
  • Ensuring targets are put into practice by implementing techniques for countries to formulate and communicating strategies to help achieve net zero according to available science

2. Adapt To Protect Natural Habitats and Communities

The second goal of COP26 is to implement strategies that clear the way for adaptation, including building resilient agriculture, infrastructure, warning systems, and defenses and restoring and protecting ecosystems.

3. Mobilize Finance

The third overarching goal of COP26 is to mobilize finance. COP26 recognizes that countries require funding to manage the effects of climate change and drive toward a climate-resilient future.

4. Work Together To Deliver

The fourth goal of COP26 is to ensure that countries achieve the above goals by creating the Paris Rulebook. The Paris Rulebook sets out the logistics and rules needed to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement.13

The three main aspects of the Paris Rulebook are:

  • Carbon Markets: This includes negotiations for an international carbon price
  • Common Time Frames (CTFs): CTFs will require countries to implement their 2030 NDCs within a given time frame
  • Enhanced Transparency Frameworks: ETFs will ensure that countries are transparent about how they track their NDCs by establishing requirements and procedures for disclosing how they measure progress

COP26 Agreements

COP26 agreements focus on several areas, including;


At COP26, countries agreed to meet in 2023 to pledge further cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. This is an effort to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which scientists say is necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe.3


For the first time at a COP summit, countries agreed to reduce coal combustion, which is the largest contributor to annual carbon dioxide emissions.14

Line graph representation of carbon emissions of different fuel types from 1750 to 2020.

However, countries agreed to phase down and not phase out coal after intervention by India and China.

 Fossil Fuel Subsidies

World leaders who attended COP26 agreed to phase out subsidies that lower the price of natural gas, coal, and oil.

 US-China Agreement

The main offenders of global warming, China and the US, agreed to work together over the next decade to reduce methane emissions and switch to clean energy.

Wide shot of factory carbon emissions in winter.

(Image: Natalie Dmay23)

Previously, China has been hesitant about tackling domestic coal emissions, so its decision to work with the US is viewed as a realization of the need for urgent action.

COP26 Carbon Neutral Pledge

Many individuals are concerned about climate change and looking for ways how to become carbon neutral. The most notable COP26 carbon-neutral pledges by individuals, governments and financial institutions include:

Halt Deforestation

Under the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use,15 137 countries pledged at COP26 to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.7

12 governments pledged to provide $12 billion for forest-related climate finance, and a group of private philanthropists and public sector donors pledged an additional $1.7 billion to support local communities and indigenous peoples.6

Green Cities

More than 1,000 local governments and cities joined the Cities Race to Zero16 and pledged to reach net zero emissions by the end of the 2040s or sooner.

Phase Out Fossil Fuels and Ramping Up Renewables

At COP26, a group of countries, including Vietnam, Canada, Poland, and the UK, pledged to phase out fossil fuels, while a different group of 39 countries pledged to stop the financing of fossil fuels by the end of 2022 and pump that money to clean energy.8

Slash Methane Emissions

More than 120 countries signed the US and European-led Global Methane Pledge and agreed to implement strategies that will reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by the end of 2030.

Transition Away From Coal and Fossil Fuels

23 countries pledged to phase out coal and signed on to an initiative that seeks to help developing countries, including South Africa and India, transition away from coal.1

25 countries and 5 financial institutions pledged to stop public financing for most fossil fuel projects, and more than 50 countries joined an alliance that looks to stop new drilling for gas and oil.

Helping the environment is something we can all do. We may make a difference by either looking for best carbon offset providers or taking part in plant trees carbon offset.

What Did COP26 Achieve?

The first notable achievement of COP26 focuses on adaptation to the effects of climate change. Following COP26, a work program has been established to define the global goal of adaptation.

In turn, this will help address the effects of climate change already happening in different global locations.

Secondly, on the sensitive issue of finance, governments that attended COP26 agreed to provide more financial support to developing countries. This will help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate change and switch to clean energy.

Huge windmill surrounded with bushes and near a pond.

(Image: hawkmysters24)

Thirdly, COP26 encouraged governments to explore new ways of closing the current emission gap.17 Governments are now at the forefront of promoting clean energy and investing in infrastructure, including in matters of distribution and transmission.

The fourth significant achievement of COP26 is the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which relates to carbon markets. This implementation will ensure a level playing field for all countries, helping them get on track to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

COP26: Key Outcomes

The key outcomes of COP26 include:

1. Green Finance for the Net Zero Economy

One of the greatest outcomes of COP26 is the allocation of $130 trillion to hasten the transition to a net zero economy.

Green finance provided by climate-aware institutional investors, insurers, marketers, and banks plays a critical role in the race to net zero by increasing the focus on climate change for private and public companies.

2. Climate Risk Disclosure for Companies

COP26 has established an International Sustainability Standards Board to set down a global baseline for disclosure for companies on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) matters.18

3. Clearer Standards for Measuring Net Zero Commitments in the Private Sector

COP26 has proposed clear standards to measure and analyze net zero commitments from the private sector. This will expose greenwashing and reward non-state actors that have adopted effective net zero strategies.4

4. Quicken the Implementation of the Paris Agreement

Another major outcome of COP26 is the agreement to review and strengthen the 2030 targets by the end of 2022 and establish a high-level leaders’ summit in 2023. This will encourage governments to increase the pace of implementing the Paris Agreement.

5. Progress on the Paris Rulebook

COP26 approved the Paris Rulebook for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which governs carbon markets.2 The newly approved Paris Rulebook will create room for market and non-market approaches to climate change mitigation by:

  • Closing loopholes
  • Minimizing the risk of double counting
  • Providing operational certainty and transparency

6. Collaboration Between Countries

At COP26, the two largest emitters, China and the United States agreed to collaborate on matters of climate change despite the recent US-China diplomatic rift.

Additionally, other countries that are responsible for a majority of carbon emissions agreed to work together to cut their carbon emissions by 2030.

The table below shows the top carbon-emitting countries from 1750 to the Present:

Bar graph representation of carbon emissions of countries from 1750 to present measure in megatons.

Rank Country CO2 Emissions Generated From 1750 to Present
1 United States 416,738 Megatons
2 China 235,527 Megatons
3 Russia 115,335 Megatons
4 Germany 92,636 Megatons
5 United Kingdom 78,161 Megatons
6 Japan 65,617 Megatons
7 India 54,423 Megatons
8 France 38,729 Megatons
9 Canada 33,571 Megatons
10 Ukraine 30,558 Megatons
11 Poland 27,862 Megatons
12 Italy 24,736 Megatons
13 South Africa 21,163 Megatons
14 Mexico 20,071 Megatons
15 Iran 18,909 Megatons

7. Decarbonization of the Transport Sector

Decarbonization can be a lot of work but is necessary for the fight against climate change.

At COP26, 24 developed countries and leading car manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, BYD Auto, Volvo, Ford, and GM, agreed to stop selling internal combustion vehicles by the end of 2040, selling only zero-emission vehicles from that time.

Even though the largest car markets, China and the US, were not present for this deal, its implementation will cover a third of global car sales.

COP26 Failure

Despite its many successful outcomes, COP26 had a few shortcomings, including:

Failure To Meet 1.5 Degrees Celsius Target

COP26 failed to meet its target to consign coal power to history.19 Instead, COP26 achieved an agreement that phases coal down instead of out.

This will continue to put the Paris Agreement temperature target of 1.5 degrees Celsius far from reach.

Failure To Stop the Use of Coal

Some coal-reliant countries have made it known that they will not stop using coal until the end of the 2040s or later.

Failure To Secure $100 Billion Climate Finance

COP26 did not secure the $100 billion yearly climate finance by 2020 as promised at COP15 in 2009. Instead, it delayed the finance to 2023.

Not only does this fail to provide resources to countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, but it also raises the question of whether similar commitments made at COP26 will be delivered within the given time frame or postponed.

Little Reference to Food and Agriculture

There was little reference to food and agriculture at COP26. The most noteworthy development for the food and agriculture sector is the Global Methane Pledge, which was made by 109 countries to reduce their methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.5

The pledge looks to minimize fugitive emissions in the gas and oil sector and reduce the emission intensity of livestock by changing how they feed.

Pie graph representation of methan emissions from different economic sectors.

Methane emissions from agriculture come from rice production, agricultural soils, and livestock such as cows.20 Even though agriculture is a leading source of methane emissions, there were no discussions about reducing meat and livestock consumption.

COP26 Outcomes: COP26 Outcomes Summary

The negotiations at COP26 resulted in the formation of the Glasgow Climate Pact,22 which sets out a process for addressing crucial issues, including 2030 finance and ambition.

Another significant outcome of COP26 was completing The Paris Rulebook. This resolved several elements that have been on the negotiating table since COP21 in 2015.

COP26 resulted in multilateral pledges, including:

Phasing Out Coal

23 countries pledged to phase out and cease investing in new coal power, including South Korea, South Indonesia, Vietnam, and Ukraine.

Carbon emissions of large coal power plant.

(Image: Patrick Federi25)

Huge machinery to help reduce methane production.

(Image: RoDobby26)


Led by the United States and the European Union, more than 120 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge to slash methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.


More than 100 countries representing 85 percent of the world’s forests pledged to stop and reverse land degradation and deforestation by 2030.

A huge pile of logs in a forest.

(Image: Meritt Thomas27)

Electronic car connected to a charging station.

(Image: Michael Fousert28)

Switching to Zero-Emission Vehicles

A number of countries and car manufacturers signed a declaration to ensure that new sales are zero emissions by the next decades.21

Enhancing Climate Action

The US and China joined forces to enhance climate action. The collaboration will strengthen how the countries cooperate on emission reductions in different sectors.

Huge windmills to gather wind energy.

(Image: Rabih Shasha29)

COP26 also resulted in the approval of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, the establishment of CTFs, which require countries to update their NDCs every five years, and the establishment of ETFs to guide countries on reporting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Footprint of COP26: What Were the Main Results of COP26?

For starters, the United States and China joined 200 other countries in COP26 to address climate change.

Secondly, COP26 resulted in the Glasgow Climate Pact, which all participating countries agreed to join in order to reduce coal use.

Thirdly, countries made pledges in areas including car emissions, methane, forests, and private finance. This included a commitment from 137 countries to stop and reverse land degradation and forest loss by 2030.

Fourth, COP26 resulted in the phasing down of coal use for energy. 190 countries agreed to phase down the use of coal power.

Close-up of rows of solar panels.

(Image: Nazrin Babashova30)

Moreover, more than 40 countries and a handful of states and organizations pledged their support for the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement.9

Fifth, the United States and the European Union launched the Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Sixth, the United States, together with 20 other countries, pledged to stop financing unabated gas and oil projects by 2023.

Finally, all participating countries agreed to revisit the 2030 emission targets provided in their NDCs to consider implementing more stringent targets.

Bar graph representation of fossil fuel carbon emissions distribution world wide.

The USA, China, and Russia are the largest contributors to the carbon footprint of COP26 since they have been leading contributors to carbon dioxide emissions from 1850 to 2021.12

As such, they must take urgent climate action at COP26 because whether the climate agreements succeed or not depends on them.

How To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product

You can calculate the carbon footprint of a product based on the emissions produced from manufacturing to the point of sale. However, you need to know emission factors specific to your product materials, parts, packaging, transportation, and energy consumption.

If taking this route seems daunting to you, you can use a carbon footprint calculator, which will help monitor your spending usage and calculate the carbon footprint of any product you purchase.

How To Measure Carbon Footprint of a Company

You can measure the carbon footprint of a company using the following formula:

Carbon Footprint = Consumption Data x Emission Factor

Consumption data refers to the parameters that define the level of activities that generate GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, while emission factor refers to the amount of GHGs produced for each activity.

Measuring your company’s carbon footprint is not limited to using this formula. You can also use a business carbon footprint calculator to find your company’s carbon footprint.

Like other United Nations climate change conferences, world leaders left COP26 encouraged by the new commitments from individuals, businesses, and governments to address the climate crisis. These included pledges to slash methane emissions, phase out fossil fuels, scale up clean energy, increase funding for adaptation, reach net-zero emissions, and halt deforestation, among others.

Later on, things do not look as promising as they once did. Some countries are still using coal, the funding challenge is yet to be resolved, and the world is nowhere close to reaching the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.

As the average carbon footprint per person continues to increase, the steps that we’ve provided could help you reduce your carbon footprint and slow the intensification of climate change.

This goes to show that commitments alone cannot limit climate change. However, with the appropriate policies, technologies, and investments, the carbon footprint of COP26 can be reduced, keeping the potential for catastrophic climate change at bay.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Carbon Footprint of COP26

What Is the Carbon Footprint of COP26?

The carbon footprint of COP26 is 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide. This is twice as much as the carbon dioxide emissions for COP25.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet?

The internet is responsible for 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Internet use accounts for 3.7 percent of global emissions, which is equivalent to all air traffic in the world.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Wood Burning Stoves?

The carbon footprint of wood burning stoves is difficult to quantify. This is because wood burning stoves are carbon neutral since they release the carbon stored within the tree back into the air.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Space Travel?

Space travel is responsible for 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions despite only accounting for 0.02 percent of total black carbon emissions.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Fireworks?

Each year, fireworks in the United States emit 60,340 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. This is significantly higher than what 12,000 gas-powered vehicles release yearly.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Wine?

A bottle of wine has a 1.28kg carbon footprint, while a wine cork captures up to 309g of carbon dioxide.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Polyester?

A polyester shirt emits 5.5kg of carbon dioxide. That is enough to make you a cup of tea for a year.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Timber?

1 cubic meter of timber has a negative 627 carbon footprint. This is because most of the timber’s weight consists of carbon dioxide, which remains in the wood throughout its lifespan.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Steel?

Each ton of steel produced emits about 1.85 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Steel production is responsible for 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Single Ethereum NFT Transaction?

An NFT bid produces 23kg of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, an NFT sale releases 51kg of carbon dioxide, while an NFT transfer emits 30kg of carbon dioxide.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Lithium-Ion Battery Production?

Lithium-ion batteries produce about 73kg of carbon dioxide. A single lithium-ion battery with a 40kWh and a 100kWh range produces 2,920kg and 7,300kg of carbon dioxide, respectively.

What Does COP26 Net Zero Mean?

Net Zero is the balance between the production and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere which is COP26’s primary goal by 2050 and keep a maximum of 1.5 degrees of global warming within reach.


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