COP26 aftermath: ‘We must get into business’ on climate change

Written by Francesco Guerrera, CNN

COP26 in Glasgow was a bitch. In the past few years, the Paris Agreement on climate change has had a rough ride, with some nations shirking their commitments and the United States just leaving the pact.

At COP24 earlier this month, 14 countries signed a pledge to curb emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The US was not one of them. The decision in France has ruffled some feathers, with Norway and even China saying it was “inappropriate.”

“If the US doesn’t sign, they will be seen as betraying their obligations,” said Damian Hickson, a campaigner at the global advocacy group Avaaz. “It’s not hard to understand why: the Trump administration isn’t putting the health of our planet at the top of its priorities.”

But even under Trump, there are signs of hope: China signed up to the Paris Agreement and is funding international efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, says Avaaz.

COP26 was the last climate meeting to be held in a European Union country, after Italy said that Paris would be the last major global summit with the EU. In September, Poland announced it would host a UN climate conference in 2020.

“I am not sure why countries now pick countries for these multilateral summits rather than focusing on diplomatic projects that can be completed in every country in the world,” Hickson said.

The media attention in Scotland has largely been focused on the food and drink sector, where attempts to wipe out plastic packaging for oysters and shrimps at the flagship Oban Oyster Bar were derailed by local waste concerns.

Speaking to a meeting of the UN Climate Change Secretariat in Hamburg, Germany, on October 3, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called climate change the planet’s “single greatest existential threat.” He went on to say that the success of the Paris Agreement “depends entirely on the full implementation of countries’ voluntary, voluntary commitments” — hence the need for COP26.

One of the meeting’s initiatives was to produce a climate justice fund. Spurred on by the European Union, which has proposed €100 billion ($125 billion) by 2020 to fund adaptation and mitigation in poor countries, 29 people, including human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, wrote an open letter demanding that: “The poorest countries have to be at the center of international climate finance.”

Rich countries, he argues, have emitted the bulk of the greenhouse gases that are now causing climate change and should shoulder the cost of taking climate action.

Sands says the gap between richer and poorer countries’ carbon footprints is the “reflection of the gulf that exists between the climate policies of rich and poor countries.”

“The places in the world where people have most to lose from the consequences of climate change, whether that’s people living in tropical zones or people in the Arctic or people on land or people in the deep oceans, also happen to be some of the most economically depressed places in the world,” he said.

To have a greater impact, Guterres urged “ownership and responsibility” on the part of all countries.

This link to money has been highlighted by British inventor Richard Branson, who said on Twitter that he recently spent a weekend traveling to the northernmost ice cap in Antarctica.

“Travelling to the world’s coldest continent to try and understand the need for climate action, my quest was highlighted as we traveled between the ice floes to narrow down one of the biggest challenges mankind faces to global warming. Global warming is about money for 1.5 degrees.”

He went on to argue that low-lying nations that have been at the center of the global warming debate for decades, because of their race for dominance over the ocean’s resources, were the most vulnerable to the growing challenge of climate change.

According to Pew Research Center surveys, the number of Americans who believe that the Earth is warming has increased from 27% in the early 1990s to 60% today.

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