COP26: world leaders will try to prevent climate disaster again

The Climate Change Conference of the HIM-HER-IT (COP26) was opened this Sunday under the sign of urgency, as an appointment that represents the “last chance” to stop global warming.

The COP26 it is “the last and best chance to meet the + 1.5ºC target,” declared the event’s chairman, British Secretary of State Alok Sharma, at the opening ceremony.

The objective of + 1.5ºC as the limit for global warming was established by the international community six years ago, in the Paris Agreement (COP21).

That objective is being missed and the most recent projections estimate that the world is heading almost double, + 2.7ºC.

The COP, under the aegis of the HIM-HER-IT, is the annual meeting to debate and set commitments in the fight against climate change. And the meeting of Glasgow, which will last until November 12, is even more important because it could not be celebrated last year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The impact of climate change is already being felt in the form of “floods, cyclones, forest fires, temperature records,” Sharma warned.

“We know that the planet we share is changing for the worse,” explained the British minister.

Coinciding with the start of COP26, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published a report that warns that the years 2015 to 2021 will probably be the warmest on record to date.

The average temperature of the planet for the last 20 years exceeds the symbolic barrier of + 1 ° C for the first time.

Notable absences

The start of the COP26 It takes place in parallel with the closing of the G20 summit in Rome, which ratified the common objective of meeting the + 1.5ºC objective.

The United Kingdom has invited 130 heads of state and government to express their objectives and demands in Glasgow, on Monday and Tuesday.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the great economic and social shock that the confinement brought about has profoundly altered the diplomatic table, and some important actors, such as the Chinese president Xi Jinping or russian Vladimir Putin, have chosen not to attend the appointment.

COP26 is decisive in the first place because countries must reinforce their commitments to emission reduction, the main cause of the increase in the average temperature of the planet.

All the signatories of the Paris Agreement they should in principle go to Glasgow with their so-called national emission reduction commitments updated.

China, which emits more than a quarter of greenhouse gases, revealed its new commitments this week. The government of Xi Jinping ensures that it wants to achieve carbon neutrality (equal amount of emissions and retention) by 2060.

But officially the international community had set that goal for 2050, so that the planet does not enter an unpredictable climate scenario.

Committing to common dates, mutually binding control rules, being transparent in the fight against climate change, is another great goal of Glasgow.

The third is the commitment of industrialized countries to help poor countries with 100 billion dollars annually to help them mitigate and adapt to the new climate.

Those 100,000 million were already committed in principle for 2020. There are still 20,000 million, according to calculations of the club of rich countries, the OECDBut Canada and Germany have announced a commitment for rich countries to normalize the situation by 2023.

There is also a lack of an agreement on carbon markets, a complex mechanism for countries to exchange emission quotas.

“Technical negotiations have been rare and difficult to organize online” during the Covid-19 pandemic, explains Lola Vallejo, an expert at the French analysis center Iddri. “But the real problem seems to be a political one. Brazil, the main country blocking the issue, needs guarantees that there will be financial incentives to preserve the Amazon rainforest,” he adds.

Finally the ministers of Environment o experts from each country should develop the rules that were briefly announced in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Glasgow university campus where COP26 is taking place is under heavy security. And next week promises to be peppered with demonstrations and protest actions by environmental groups, with the assistance of figures such as the young Swede Greta Thunberg.

The shadow of the pandemic

In addition to the challenging geopolitical backdrop, a global energy crisis has led to China to turn to highly polluting coal to avoid energy shortages, while Europe searches for more gas, another fossil fuel.

In the end, the negotiations will come down to questions of fairness and trust between rich countries, whose greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change, and poor countries, who will be asked to decarbonise their economies with insufficient financial support.

The Covid-19 it has exacerbated the divide between rich and poor. Lack of vaccinations and travel restrictions mean that some representatives from the poorest countries cannot attend the meeting.

Other hurdles – for example sky-high hotel rates in Glasgow – have fueled concerns that there is under-representation of civil society groups from poorer nations, who are most at risk from global warming.

Covid-19 will cause cclimate conference be different from any other, as 25,000 delegates from governments, business, civil society, indigenous peoples and the media will fill Glasgow’s cavernous Scottish Event Campus.

Everyone will have to wear masks, socially distance themselves and produce a negative Covid-19 test to enter each day, which means that groups of negotiators who struck deals at the last minute in past climate encounters are ruled out.

World leaders will host COP26 with two days of speeches that could include some new promises of emission reduction, before the technical negotiators get down to business on the rules of the Paris Agreement. An agreement is likely to be reached hours or days after the event’s end date of November 12.

Abroad, tens of thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets to demand urgent climate action.

Assessing progress will be complex. Unlike past climate summits, the event will not deliver a new treaty or a big “victory,” but will seek to secure smaller but vital victories in emissions reduction commitments, climate finance and investment.

With information from Reuters and AFP.


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