COP26’s Unfinished Business

Civil society, climate scientists and activists and people must remain mobilized and continue to press governments of the worst polluting countries to drastically cut down their emissions of greenhouses gases, urgently end their use of coal and fossil fuels

By Mrinal Roy

After two weeks of intense negotiations to reach agreement on 14 November, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the final COP26 agreement as ‘the beginning of the end for coal power’.

CTV News 

Aptly summarising the arcane dynamics of difficult international negotiations, Boris Johnson pointedly stated after the conclusion of COP 26:

‘Those for whom climate change is already a matter of life and death, who can only stand by as their islands are submerged, their farmland turned to desert, their homes battered by storms, they demanded a high level of ambition from this summit.

‘While many of us were willing to go there, that wasn’t true of everybody. Sadly that’s the nature of diplomacy. We can lobby, we can cajole, we can encourage, but we cannot force sovereign nations to do what they do not wish to do.’

The reality is that the agreement was disappointingly short of the drastic reductions in carbon emissions required by climate scientists, people across the world enduring the dire impact of climate change and the young to save our planet from a climate change catastrophe. Too many polluting countries are still dragging their feet to buy time to safeguard the parochial interests of their economy highly dependent on the use of highly polluting fossils fuels and coal despite the fact that their actions are choking and throttling our homeland, planet Earth.

The world’s three largest emitters of greenhouse gases are China, the United States and the European Union on an absolute basis. The United States and Russia have the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions.

Insidious lobbies

Despite their carbon footprint and the enormous amount of greenhouse gases generated by their presence, some 40,000 delegates from 197 countries attended the COP26 summit on climate change in Glasgow. The stakes for the producers and exporters of fossil fuels and coal are so high that 503 persons linked to the fossil fuel industry were also present in Glasgow to insidiously lobby and tweak the outcome of the COP26 to safeguard their vested interests. Such lobbies are also active in Mauritius to safeguard and extend the lifespan of lucrative power plants principally using highly polluting coal.

In spite of some positive decisions, efforts to drastically cut down carbon emissions to limit global warming within the threshold of 1.5 degree Celsius fell far short. Many countries adversely affected by the dire impact of climate change stated during the closing sessions of the climate summit that the COP 26 agreement did not go far enough.

Culpable delay

What is particularly disappointing is that six years after the COP21 Paris agreement, the actions taken and commitments made in particular by the most polluting countries, world leaders and governments have not been able to match up with the requirements of the climate change crisis faced by the world. They have culpably delayed the required actions needed to accelerate the decarbonisation of the global economy, end the use of highly polluting coal and fossil fuels and shift to renewable and green energy production and use.

In accordance with the COP26 accord, all countries have therefore agreed to meet again next year at a conference in Egypt and re-examine their commitments to cut down their carbon emissions in 2022, with a view to increasing as necessary their greenhouse gas cuts. In the meantime, all countries need to honour their commitments and translate them urgently into concrete and robust actions.

The disappointing reality in the wake of COP26 is that experts and Climate Action Tracker estimate that even if all pledges made before and during COP26 are met, the planet is on track to warm by 2.1℃ – 2.4℃.

On climate finance, the agreed text commits developed countries to double the collective share of adaptation finance within the $100 billion annual target for 2021-2025 and to reach the $100 billion goal as soon as possible.

At the end of the COP26 climate summit, the burning question in the minds of people across the world and the young was: Have the governments present in Glasgow had the courage to rise to the scale of the challenge? Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, sobering comment summarizes the world’s state of mind: ‘Further urgent work was needed. Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of a climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode’ to stem and prevent the impending climate disaster.

Must win battle

The upshot is that the world is courting disaster.

Important unfinished business therefore remains to be done in the wake of COP26. Civil society, climate scientists and activists and people from across the world must remain mobilized and continue to press governments of countries which are the worst polluters and prime users of highly polluting coal and fossil fuels to drastically cut down their emissions of greenhouses gases, urgently end their use of coal and fossil fuels to replace them with renewable and green energy.

The world is facing an unprecedented crisis which requires bold and urgent actions. It is therefore high time to put a stop to the irresponsible greed of those who have thrived and want to continue to prosper through the use of highly polluting coal and fossil fuels or industries and activities which emit large quantities of carbon emissions in the atmosphere despite the impending threat of a climate change disaster. What is at stake is the safeguard and sustainability of our homeland, planet Earth as well as the future of humanity and the young. More than ever before in the chequered history of mankind, this is a must-win battle.

* Published in print edition on 19 November 2021

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