COP26 – Real Progress or just more Hot Air?

Johnson at COP26 – Source: Martin Griffiths

Is COP26 solving problems or is it just so much more political rhetoric, green-washing and hot air? The planet is in trouble. Climate change is having a devastating impact and while historically it is the G20 countries that have made the greatest impact by burning dirty fossil fuels, it is poorer countries and their people who are feeling the consequences.

It’s not as if the dire situation isn’t known but it will need a massive act of political will to limit the damage. Prof Johan Rockström, the head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said COP26 could not be treated like other political negotiations.

“A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary. Every fraction of a degree more is dangerous.”

So, will COP26 produce meaningful answers or just produce more hot air on an already overheating planet? Recently, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, underlined the importance of the G20 summit and the Glasgow conference, saying:

 “There is a serious risk that Glasgow will not deliver, if we want real success and not just a mirage, we need more ambition and more action. That will only be possible with a massive mobilization of political will, and that requires trust among the key actors.”

He added that such “trust” was in short supply!

Trust” is not something that can be associated with the UK’s present government nor with Johnson in particular. He seems happy to sign international treaties, then break them and blame the other parties. He has also again faced criticism this week for his own inaction over tackling emissions. Wednesday’s budget again froze fuel duty and cut levies on shorter, domestic flights. Yet he said recently, without apparent irony:

 “Too many countries are still doing too little.”

Of course, initiatives are being made. Technologies are changing. There is a growing understanding that things must change, and change quickly, to stop the planet overheating further and the dreadful consequences of climate change. But will COP26 make the big steps required or will it be a “cop out”?

Meanwhile, protests recently took place in 26 countries and specifically targeted the financial centres of the largest economies around the world. The Swedish activist Greta Thunberg joined demonstrators at a ‘climate justice memorial’ in the City of London and said,

“As long as we keep ignoring the historical responsibility of the countries of the global north and as long as we continue to ignore it, the negotiations will not have a successful outcome.”

Let’s hope for more action and less hot air!


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