On Saturday night the 13th, after an extension of more than a day, an agreement was reached at the Glasgow summit on climate change. And so far the good news. That one of the milestones was mention the elimination of fossil fuels as a key element to stop warming (the first time it appears in a text like this) it gives us an idea of how meager progress has been. And beware, this mention has come out watered down: India has forced to change the concept of “eliminate” to “reduce” and, in addition, we are talking about applying it on “inefficient” subsidies, which leaves a huge margin of discretion to States to establish what is and what is not an “efficient” subsidy.
It is true that a reasonably optimistic reading of the summit can be made, given that there was a certain risk of outright failure. It has finally been approved the regulation of article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which regulates carbon markets. There are bilateral agreements (such as the one between China and the United States, significant for what it implies for the North American country to return to climate diplomacy), and also some multilateral ones, such as the one referring to deforestation. On the contrary, the position of rich countries on account of the climate finance fund, and especially the adaptation of vulnerable countries, has been shameful and unworthy; the one who contributes the least to climate change is the one who suffers the most.
It must be recognized, however, the effort and work of thousands of people in Glasgow. People who have contributed the best of the best they had, for two endless weeks and enduring criticism, contempt and personal and collective frustrations. I have an admiration for them that goes beyond their final role at the summit. But this cannot cloud our eyes to the point of evaluating this COP – and the rest – for the summit itself, and not for what has been achieved; that is to say, we have to avoid confusing instrument and objective. A climate summit is an instrument, and it is valuable insofar as what is derived is transformative and, fundamentally, consistent with the scientific knowledge that we have. And here is the problem.
This COP had to answer two questions. The first, the social demand that, since 2018, pressures governments to increase their climate ambition. There is a feeling of anger, widespread and transversal, which is increasingly dense among young people but also in all age groups. It’s too many years of broken hopes and broken promises, and it’s now more penetrating than ever the repeated failure of multilateralism, when the world is emerging from a global crisis and reveals itself incapable of rethinking its growth model and relationship with nature. Second, there is the relentless hammer of science. The Glasgow meeting took place after the last IPCC report, which reiterates to us the irreversibility of climate change, and the absolute certainty of its human origin, but also the extreme importance of acting to avoid a catastrophic warming that affects billions of people and makes large areas of the entire planet uninhabitable. The data is stubborn and alarming: the commitments adopted imply an increase of more than two degrees, even more so if we incorporate the emission gap discovered by the ‘Washington Post’ and which indicates that we have less time than we thought to plummet emissions. Yes, the commitment is maintained not to exceed a degree and a half, although in the same way that we would diet without going through the nutritionist: without any established plan, with insufficient commitments and little prospect of fulfilling it. It is like saying that we are in the middle of ‘bikini operation’ between a drink of beer and a bite of a fork filled with bravas.
The umpteenth climate summit we have been disappointed once again, postponing the problem and saying to ourselves: “we’ll talk next year.” But it is in our power to make this the ultimate disappointment. Because we will always have anger, struggle, effort and collective work. If the COPs do not work, it will be necessary to invent a new forum or build alternative spaces. What we can never do is throw in the towel, because the future is being built day by day and hopelessness is not a path to travel.