Contributed by Ben Wilson and Joe Montero
On 31 October heads of state will arrive in Glasgow, Scotland’s second city, to take part in a 12 day COP 26 gathering. COP26 stands for the 26th year of meetings of the Conference of the Parties. Many resolutions fine speeches have been delivered and resolutions passed over these years. Littler of it has been converted into decisive action.
The Scottish Event Campus in the heart of Glasgow and where COP 26 will take place
It is hardly surprising that there is a great deal of scepticism over what might eventuate in Glasgow, where representatives are supposed to discuss action over climate warming.
COP 26 is to be jointly hosted by the United Kingdom and Italy, Many expect that it will amount to little more than a photo opportunity and fail to come up with what is required to meet the threat.
The world’s climate is already and unavoidably heading for a minimum temperature rise of 1.5 degree centigrade, and a significant extinction of species is now unavoidable. This can be blamed on the past failure of governments to act. If this failure continues, the temperature rise will be much greater and threaten catastrophic climate change. Destruction of global biodiversity will lead to food and water crisis and a horrific death toll. This means the destruction of human civilisation, perhaps even our extinction.
World is threatened with catastrophic climate change
Today’s political leaders can’t claim they didn’t know. They have been buried by the scientific evidence and now talk about the threat all the time.
Glasgow will see the biggest gathering of world leaders ever assembled on the soil of the United Kingdom. The Queen, Boris Johnson, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and US president Joe Biden will be there. Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, the world’s two most famous climate activists will take part and Pope Francis will be there. In all, the 197 signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be represented.
Cop 26 is billed as the event to accelerate the 2016 Paris Agreement. Here we have it. Recognition that action must be stepped up and those who can make it happen coming together to discuss specific stated concerns.
These are securing global net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and keeping Earth’s end-of-century temperature increase down to 1.5 degrees Celsius; adapting to protect communities and natural habitats on the front line of extreme weather events caused by global heating; ensuring the developed world drums up at least $100 billion in climate finance every year; and agreeing conditions under which the world can work together to tackle the crisis as one.
Glasgow will see parades and other public events to give the impression big things are under way.
But there has already been jockeying by nations towards limited action.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison is an unusual case. He represents one of the biggest carbon contributing nations and continues to hold out. He will not be going to Glasgow.
Both the United Kingdom and United States have plans that at least move well past that of Australia, and China is expected to unveil its own accelerated plans.
Dealing with the climate threat requires not only net zero emissions. It calls for measures to reduce what has already been pumped out into the air. Only going beyond zero is this possible. Unfortunately, the goals set by many governments fall well short of this.
Image from the American Society of Landscape architects: Future depends on building a sustainable economy where humanity exists in harmony with nature
Secondly, the window of opportunity is small. Failure to do it on time will mean a temperature rise well over 1.5 degrees. Many of the participating nations continue to lag and delay the zero target too far into the future.
Thirdly, pressure is being put on developing countries to shoulder a greater burden. This is unrealistic. They need help and it is the already industrialised and richest nations that must share the greater responsibility. There is still no global commitment to do this.
Unless each does its part and all agrees to work with all nations, the needed progress is not going to materialise.
Hope lies in that in most countries the population wants much more from their leaders. Public opinion is putting enormous pressure on the politicians to step up their game.
COP 26 will be met with actions in cities across the world. In Glasgow itself, a combinations of unions led by the Scottish Trades Union Congress and environment and community groups have planned to raise their own voices and organised their own events.
There will be voices raising concerns within the official meetings.
COP 26 may still prove to be a watershed moment, signalling a new phase in the movement for the needed action on the climate crisis.