In Scotland, protesters gathered on October 29 near the site of next week’s COP26 summit, demanding countries take real action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Dylan Hamilton said Democracy now: “We have to try and remind world leaders what’s happening with the crisis. The world is literally on fire, and it’s only going to get worse.”
Andrew Nazdin said: “From wildfires in the U.S. to flooding across the world, we are in a full-blown climate crisis. World leaders know this. They’ve seen what’s happening. Now is the time for them to come together here in Glasgow and hammer out a deal to avert the worst of the climate catastrophe.”
US President Biden on October 29 unveiled a framework for a revised version of his Build Back Better plan, which aims to combat the climate crisis while funding an array of social programs. Biden’s scaled-back plan would see the U.S. spend $1.75 trillion over a decade, with $555 billion for climate-friendly policies like tax credits for electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines, and more energy-efficient buildings. Under pressure from conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, many progressive goals have been stripped from the original Build Back Better Act – among them, two years of free community college; paid family and medical leave; and a provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Still, progressive lawmakers like Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders called the package transformational.
Glasgow. A new point of climate reference
“I want the world to be fully aware of the dangers of the current situation, as well as the need for urgent action,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the forthcoming climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
The year’s main event on international climate negotiations will take place on November 1-12 in Glasgow. Specifically, three events will be held simultaneously: the 26th Meeting of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, and the 3rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.
All these events in the world are called briefly – COP26.
The importance of this event is evidenced by the fact that in the first two days of COP26, a summit of world leaders is planned, and then – negotiations of delegations
At the conference in Glasgow, five key topics are scheduled for discussion:
- adaptation and resilience to climate change, including the protection and restoration of ecosystems and the development of climate-sustainable infrastructure and agriculture;
- nature protection, including delays in deforestation and large-scale implementation of nature-oriented solutions;
- energy transition, which includes the abandonment of coal and investment in renewable energy sources;
- transport (transition to electric transport);
- finance, namely the fulfillment of the commitment of developed countries to allocate $100 billion annually to developing countries for climate change measures; and the mobilization of private and public funds to achieve climate neutrality.
Particular attention should be paid to the energy transition because this is an issue around which Glasgow will have very heated talks. According to the Paris Agreement, humanity must strive for decarbonization (production with minimal emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 and methane), which will help keep the global average temperature between 1.5 and 2° C.
However, how to achieve this and what concessions different countries should make – there are very heated discussions on these issues.
Positions of countries
Last year, the world was filled with news about the countries’ positions at the Glasgow summit. The focus is on the countries with the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions: China, the United States, India, the EU, and Russia.
For example, China has already announced the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2060, included deep decarbonization and environmental protection in the new five-year plan, refused to finance coal mining and use projects abroad, and launched a national emissions trading system.
With the arrival of Joe Biden as President of the United States, they returned to the Paris Agreement, included climate issues in the main directions of their international policy, announced their intention to decarbonize the country’s economy by 2050, and agreed with the EU to reduce methane emissions by a third by 2030.
The European Union is at the forefront of green transformation
The EU has set an ambitious goal (and not everyone within the bloc likes it) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and achieve full decarbonization of the economy by 2050.
The European Green Course, a program on how to achieve this goal, is already well known. One of the highlights of this program is the introduction of the so-called Carbon Correction Mechanism at the border (VKMI), essentially a tax on the carbon-intensive industry imported into the EU.
Products of metallurgy, cement, ammonia, and electricity will be affected by VKMI. And while many countries have spoken out against the mechanism because of its protectionist nature, it must be acknowledged that many exporting companies are already reacting proactively to it and developing corporate decarbonisation strategies.
India has not yet submitted its renewed nationally determined contribution (NRC) to the COP26, but has promised to do so before the summit.
The Russian Federation was genuinely surprised to announce in mid-October that it would reach climate neutrality in 2060, in contrast to last year’s announcement of this ambition by the end of the century.
Turkey has recently ratified the Paris Agreement and declared climate neutrality by 2053.
However, on the eve of its launch, COP26 faced considerable challenges, European Truth states.
Despite active climate diplomacy, the ongoing energy crisis in the world (particularly in the EU, China, India, where some companies have even suspended) is pushing some countries to take a rather cautious approach to coal abandonment, and Brazil and Indonesia have even begun to increase coal production.
Cop26 will be whitest and most privileged ever, warn campaigners
Thousands from frontline communities in the global south have been excluded, activists claim.
The global climate summit in Glasgow will be the whitest and most privileged ever, according to campaigners, who warn that thousands of people from frontline communities in the global south have been excluded.
World leaders and delegates are expected to be joined by celebrities, corporate chief executives and royals at the critical two-week event.
But the Cop26 Coalition – which represents indigenous movements, vulnerable communities, trade unionists and youth strikers around the world – says that up to two-thirds of those it was helping to travel to Glasgow have given up, overwhelmed by a combination of visa and accreditation problems, lack of access to Covid vaccines and changing travel rules – as well as “scarce and expensive” accommodation.
Rachael Osgood, director of immigration at Cop26 Coalition, said: “This event, because of multiple combining factors, most of which fall under the responsibility of government, is set to be the most elite and exclusionary Cop ever held.”
She said that, while it was challenging to put a precise figure on the numbers of observers, campaigners and civil society groups from the global south who had been prevented from coming, the impact on the negotiations would be significant.
“What we know for certain is that thousands of people from the global south are being excluded, and they represent tens of millions of voices from those right on the frontline of this crisis which are not going to be heard … We are looking at global north countries making decisions with minimal accountability to those least responsible and most affected, and that goes against everything Cop should stand for.”
Campaigners say activists and observers have been prevented from coming by:
- an underlying “hostile attitude” from the UK Home Office towards those travelling from countries in the global south, particularly Africa, which has led to many visas being refused;
- a failure to honour a pledge to offer COVID-19 vaccines to all delegates, leaving many to search for vaccines in countries with little or no access;
- constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions for those entering the UK, with travel banned from countries on the UK’s red list, which, until this month, included many of the countries worst hit by the climate crisis. This has left many to seek costly and complicated routes to Glasgow via third countries;
- an accommodation crisis in the city that has made finding a safe place to stay difficult and expensive. Campaigners have set up a “homestay network” to try to link people up with spare rooms, but say they have thousands on their waiting list
Asad Rehman, of the Cop26 Coalition, said: “Cop26 is going to be overwhelmingly white and rich this year. The UN climate talks are always exclusionary, but this year the logistics of this summit have been extraordinarily badly managed. On every level, those who are most affected by this crisis have been systemically silenced and excluded.
“It has become increasingly clear that the UK government has prioritised the Cop being a global platform to promote its and other rich countries’ interests, whilst delivering an inclusive and legitimate Cop is a distant afterthought.”
Lidy Nacpil, of the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, who is based in the Philippines, said these hurdles had made it impossible for her team to attend. “The challenges and complications related to vaccines, visas and quarantine requirements that the UK failed to adequately address are the main reasons why we will not be at Cop26,” she said.
She said that while Cop processes had always been “dominated by wealthy countries and corporate interests”, the lack of representation from the global south would exacerbate those trends.
“Given far less southern participation, especially of movements, Cop26 will fail to bring us closer to climate justice,” she said.
Dorothy Guerrero, of campaign group Global Justice Now, also warned that an absence of people from the global south would have dire consequences. “This will only benefit rich nations that will decide on key issues and benefit their transnational corporations with limited protests from developing countries and NGO observers.”
A spokesperson for Cop26 said the UK government was “working tirelessly” with the Scottish government and the UN to “ensure an inclusive, accessible and safe summit … with a comprehensive set of Covid mitigation measures”.
They added that they had secured about a third of hotel rooms in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, making them available at a fair price, and were offering to fund the required quarantine hotel stays for registered delegates arriving from red-list countries and to vaccinate accredited delegates.
But campaigners say the situation on the ground for those wanting to travel from the global south is dire. Osgood said that in some of the countries facing the worst impacts of climate breakdown, almost no one – including official delegates and observers – had been able to secure travel routes or visas.
“Haiti is a prime example,” said Osgood. “To get a visa, you need to have your fingerprints and face scanned, but there is no facility for this in the country, so anyone wanting to go has to travel to the Dominican Republic to complete their application. But this is expensive and limited, so no observers or civil society groups will make it to Cop, which is a travesty.”
Osgood, who runs the coalition’s visa and legal advice service, said she had raised this and many other issues with the UK Home Office, but it took them three months to even identify a Cop liaison officer to discuss cases with.
The Home Office said it had been working with delegates from around the world on their visa applications “to ensure Cop26 is inclusive and accessible”.
A spokesperson said: “We aim to process all visa applications within 15 working days – but those which are more complicated, or when individuals do not provide the required information, may take longer.”
But Osgood said: “The road to this Cop for many people is broken and strewn with structural obstacles, it is an unequal and unjust system and that will have a huge impact on the climate justice outcomes.”
Afghans have Cop26 delegate applications rejected days before event
Six environmental experts from Afghanistan who were due to attend Cop26 as their country’s delegates to the global conference have had their applications rejected just days before the event begins, The Guardian states.
The six – five men and one woman who cannot be named because it could jeopardise their safety – were looking forward to travelling to the event to help make the concerns of Afghans about the climate emergency heard at the summit.
All have fled the Taliban and are in hiding in neighbouring countries from where it would be easy to travel to the UK.
No reason has been given for the six applications being rejected. Initially they thought either the Home Office or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) had vetoed their trip to the UK.
However, FCDO sources told the Guardian the decision had not been made by any UK government department. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat would not be registering delegates from Afghanistan to Cop26 pending further guidance from the Bureau of the Cop, the sources said.
The six, who have previously worked for either UN programmes, the previous pre-Taliban government in Afghanistan or national environmental bodies in their country, say they are very upset with UNFCCC’s decision to bar them from attending this crucial conference.
“We are very disappointed with this decision. We have met all the requirements for the visa but the UNFCCC secretariat rejected our nominations without any proper reasons – maybe due to the ongoing political situation in Afghanistan,” said one of the delegates.
Another said: “By taking this action the UNFCCC secretariat stifled the voice of millions of Afghan victims of climate change impact. Climate change does not respect borders. They should have not mixed the environment with politics. We were hoping to attend Cop26 to raise the voice of millions of Afghan victims of the adverse impacts of climate change.”
While Afghanistan is responsible for only 0.03% of global emissions, the country is severely affected by the climate crisis.
An initial letter to the delegates from UNFCCC secretariat asked for the UK’s assistance to speed up the process of visa applications for the six delegates and to issue them with visas to facilitate their participation at Cop26.
However, a subsequent letter stated: “We are glad to inform you that you have been nominated to attend UNFCCC session Cop26 on behalf of Afghanistan. However your status at the moment is ‘rejected’.”
The UNFCCC has not responded to repeated requests by the Guardian to explain the U-turn on the six delegates attending the conference.
Prosecutors are under growing pressure to drop cases against environmental protestors after activists were found guilty of calling the UK’s most prominent climate-change sceptics “liars”.
Three campaigners were found guilty of criminal damage after spraying graffiti on the Westminster office of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The organisation, which was once chaired by the former chancellor Nigel Lawson, has been criticised by the Charity Commission for breaking rules on impartiality, with critics accusing it of being the UK’s most prominent source of climate-change scepticism.
Campaigners, who sprayed the words “lies, lies, lies” on to the building, received the minimal permissible sentence for criminal damage, a six-month conditional discharge, and told to pay a reduced court cost of £100. Raj Chada, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ought to reevaluate the purpose in pursuing such cases.
Around 50 Extinction Rebellion activists have had their convictions quashed after peaceful protests, raising questions for the CPS over cases brought against them. “Surely yet again, the CPS needs to consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute when these are the sentences imposed,” Chada said.
Clare Farrell, Jessica Townsend and Rupert Read sprayed the graffiti and poured fake blood down the steps of the building in September 2020. The address is home to a small but influential network of libertarian, pro-Brexit thinktanks and lobby groups. Among those who attend frequent meetings at the Georgian townhouse are pro-Brexit website Brexit Central, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which has been accused of offering donors access to government ministers and civil servants.
Delivering the verdict last Thursday, three magistrates at City of London Magistrates Court praised the activists for their “openness and honesty”.
Townsend said: “We feel it is an obscenity in this time of a crisis of humanity that there are those propagating lies that will damage and put at risk the future of our society and our children.”
Townsend, an author who co-founded Writers Rebel, a group of writers within Extinction Rebellion including Mark Rylance, Zadie Smith and Juliet Stevenson, added: “Writers, journalists and all who deal with words need to counter these lies, false narratives and deliberate confusions with the clarity of the truth.”
Actress and author Harriet Walter, who was at the court in support, said: “The wrong crime was on trial. Which is the greater crime? Reversible damage to a bit of property or landing our children and grandchildren with irreversible damage to the planet?”Jonathan Porritt, former chair of Tony Blair’s Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), added: “This is a disappointing outcome but not unexpected. It doesn’t make the Global Policy Warming Foundation any less of a bunch of chronic liars.”
A spokesperson for the Global Warming Policy Foundation – rebranded online as the Net Zero Watch – said they were campaigning against “exaggerated” claims that were not based in science. They added that they should be called climate change sceptics, not deniers.
The spokesperson added: “No scientist in their right mind claims we’re facing extinction or we only have 10 years to prevent global catastrophe… These are exaggerated claims that Extinction Rebellion use to scare people.
“But, you know, we might face significant warming and significant problems. But it’s not the end of the world, is it?”
Cop26 failure could mean mass migration and food shortages, says Boris Johnson
A failure by world leaders to commit to tackling the climate emergency at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow could prompt “very difficult geopolitical events” including mass migration and global competition for food and water, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking before the start of a gathering of leaders from the G20 industrialised nations in Rome, where he will push for countries to arrive in Glasgow with fixed plans to cut emissions, Johnson said the chances of success hung in the balance.
In a round of broadcast interviews in Rome, he was reminded that he had said in September that there was a six out of 10 probability of the Cop summit producing the necessary action, and asked what he now thought.
“I’d say they’re about the same,” he told the BBC. “I think that everybody needs to focus. What the UK has been trying to do is take the abstract concepts of net zero that we talked about in Paris six years ago, and to turn them into hard, sharp deliverables in terms of reducing coal use, reducing the use of internal combustion engines, planting millions of trees and getting the cash that the world needs to finance green technology.’’
Speaking to reporters on the way to Rome on Friday, Johnson used the example of the collapse of the Roman empire to highlight what he said was the possibility of runaway climate change bringing a decline in civilisation.
Questioned about the stakes for Cop26 in Rome, where he was interviewed next to the Coliseum, Johnson reiterated his warnings about the consequences for the globe.
“If you increase the temperatures of the planet by four degrees or more, as they are predicted to do remorselessly, you’ll have seen the graphs, then you produce these really very difficult geopolitical events,” he told Channel 4 News.
“You produce shortages, you produce desertification, habitat loss, movements, contests for water, for food, huge movements of peoples. Those are things that are going to be politically very, very difficult to control.
“When the Roman empire fell, it was largely as a result of uncontrolled immigration. The empire could no longer control its borders, people came in from the east, all over the place, and we went into a dark ages, Europe went into a dark ages that lasted a very long time. The point of that is to say it can happen again. People should not be so conceited as to imagine that history is a one-way ratchet.
“Unless you can make sure next week at Cop in Glasgow that we keep alive this prospect of restricting the growth in the temperature of the planet then we really face a real problem for humanity.”
Johnson has faced criticism this week for his own inaction over tackling emissions, with Wednesday’s autumn budget again froze fuel duty, and cut levies on shorter, domestic flights, but he arrived in Rome bearing a blunt message for fellow G20 leaders.
“Too many countries are still doing too little,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said, setting out the message that will be delivered.
‘If we don’t act now it will be too late’, warns Johnson ahead of Cop26.
“As the countries with the greatest historic and modern contributions to global warming, who have built their economies on the backs of burning dirty fossil fuels, the G20 holds the key to unlocking global action and making the progress we so badly need to live up to our commitments.”
Asked on Saturday whether the cut to passenger duty had undermined his message, Johnson rejected this.
“We increased air passenger duty for long-haul flights, 96% of CO2 emissions come from long haul flights,” he told Channel 4 News. “What we will do is ensuring we have proper connectivity in the islands of the United Kingdom, which is an entirely sensible thing to do.”
In Rome, Johnson will hold bilateral talks with Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, whose own record on reducing emissions has been heavily criticised, as well as Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Italy’s Mario Draghi.
Johnson is not due to hold a one-on-one meeting with Joe Biden, the US president, who will be at the G20 and Cop26, although the pair will attend a meeting in Rome about the Iran nuclear deal.
Also attending this meeting will be the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is expected to bring along her likely successor, Olaf Scholz, currently the finance minister.
Climate experts warn world leaders 1.5° C is ‘real science’, not just talking point
The 1.5C temperature limit to be discussed by world leaders at critical meetings this weekend is a vital physical threshold for the planet’s climate, and not an arbitrary political construct that can be haggled over, leading climate scientists have warned.
World leaders are meeting in Rome and Glasgow over the next four days to thrash out a common approach aimed at holding global temperature rises to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels, the lower of two limits set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
But some countries are unwilling to peg their emissions plans to the tougher goal, as it would require more urgent efforts. They prefer to consider long-term goals such as net zero by 2050.
Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, nations committed to restricting global temperature rises to ‘well below’ 2° C
Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, warned that the 1.5° C target was not like other political negotiations, which can be haggled over or compromised on.
“A rise of 1.5C is not an arbitrary number, it is not a political number. It is a planetary boundary,” he told the Guardian in an interview. “Every fraction of a degree more is dangerous.”
Allowing temperatures to rise by more than 1.5° C would vastly increase the risk of irreversible changes to the climate, he said. For instance, it would raise the risk of the Arctic losing its summer ice, with dire knock-on effects on the rest of the climate as the loss of reflective ice increases the amount of heat the water absorbs, in a feedback loop that could rapidly raise temperatures further.
The Greenland ice sheet, the melting of which would raise sea level rises, could also be tipped into a state of irreversible decline beyond 1.5° C.
A rise of more than 1.5° C would also threaten changes to the Gulf Stream, which could also become irreversible. It could result in catastrophe for biodiversity hotspots, damage agriculture across swathes of the globe, and could inundate small islands and low-lying coastal areas.
“This is real science – it is a real number. Now we can say that with a high degree of confidence,” he said, as 1.5° C indicated a physical limit to the warming the planet can safely absorb.
Rockström added: “[Staying within] 1.5° C is achievable. It is absolutely what we should be going for.”
The leaders of the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies – developed and developing – are meeting on Saturday in Rome. They will fly to Glasgow for Monday morning, where they will be joined by more than 100 leaders from the rest of the world for the UN Cop26 climate summit.
The UK, as host of Cop26, has set the aim of “keeping 1.5° C alive”, but some countries – including China, Saudi Arabia and Russia – have been reluctant to agree to focus on the 1.5° C limit, preferring to point out that the Paris agreement states the world must hold temperatures “well below” 2C while “pursuing efforts” to stay within 1.5° C.
However, scientific research since the Paris agreement was signed has added to a compelling body of global science showing that if temperatures are allowed to rise by more than 1.5° C, the consequences will be severely damaging and many are likely to be irreversible.
Other leading climate scientists echoed Rockström’s warnings. Mark Maslin, a professor of Earth systems science at University College London, said: “The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in 2018 made the science very clear: there are significant climate impacts all round the world even if we limit warming to 1.5° C.
“The report also showed there were significant increases to impacts and damages if we overshoot this target … These results were fully supported by the very latest 2021 IPCC science report [published in August]. This is the science and these agreed climate targets set by the Paris agreement are non-negotiable and have been agreed already by all 197 countries of the UN.”
Joeri Rogelj, the director of research at the Grantham institute, Imperial College London, said: “Science tells us that climate change risks increase rapidly between 1.5C and 2° C of warming. Looking at the last years, during which we experienced some of the impacts of a 1.2° C warmer world [such as heatwaves, flooding and extreme weather] – one would be hard pressed to call this safe.”
Coal pledges and a methane deal: what could Cop26 achieve?
The only consensus, so far, about Cop26 is that there will not be one big deal that everyone can hug and cheer about. So what will experts be looking for, to indicate some kind of success?
Let’s check the answers prepared by The Guardian.
Keeping 1.5° C alive is key, and anything that helps with that will be vital. Up until now, government pledges have kept us on the road to a catastrophic 2.7° C of warming. This year – if every government actually delivers on all the promises that have been made – that has been brought down to 2.1° C. Anything that firms up those promises, or brings that target even lower, is a good sign. New targets from China and India would be particularly welcome.
The spirit of the negotiations. If countries can negotiate amicably and constructively, that will be good news. Certain countries may seek to sow discord: it will be interesting to see how that is handled.
Tangible short-term progress and a trackable roadmap towards long-term goals. To maintain credibility, the Cop process needs to demonstrate urgency. If emissions aren’t on a clear downward trajectory by 2025, it will have been a failure.
A global methane deal. The US and EU recently pledged to reduce their methane emissions by 30%. If that can be expanded to a worldwide deal, with hard numbers – such as a 40% reduction – that would be a real win.
No new coal is pretty unlikely given the current energy crisis, but any progress on getting countries to commit to phasing out coal would be welcome.
An end to the internal combustion engine. Boris Johnson is branding Cop26 the “coal, cars, cash and trees” conference. A deal to phase out the manufacture of petrol and diesel cars by, say, 2030, would be pretty eye-catching.
Deforestation and land use is one of the big drivers of climate change: governments should be aiming for new deals here.
Climate finance. At the very least, Cop26 should seek to hit the $100bn threshold on climate finance that was promised in 2009. Better still, hit that target, and then set a new one. Best of all, commit some of that money to adaptation – which means it will reach the poorest countries that so desperately need it.
More stragglers catching up. In the weeks before Cop26, Russia has said it will target net zero by 2060, Turkey has finally ratified the Paris agreement and the UAE has become the first Gulf state to commit to net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century. More announcements from climate laggards are possible in Glasgow.
Article 6 of the Paris agreement was focused on setting up global emissions trading schemes. But carbon markets remain piecemeal and controversial: progress on this would be significant.
According to Bank of America in its report, route to net-zero emissions will cost the global economy $5 tr annually. You may get to know more here.