The Guardian’s take on Cop26: Rhetoric must turn into action in Glasgow | Editorial


SSix years ago, as the Paris accord was reached amid the euphoria of the 21st United Nations climate conference, French hosts wisely insisted on a clause requiring countries to match promises to deeds. Committed to trying to keep the increase in global temperature “well below” 2 ° C from pre-industrial times – and aspire to a limit of 1.5 ° C – governments have been tasked with produce updated plans in 2020, showing how they would actually achieve this goal.

Delayed for a year due to the Covid pandemic, the climate summit now starting in Glasgow represents that moment of truth. To use the words of Laurent Fabius, the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs who presided over Paris, the Cop26 “is the Cop of action, to which we apply the Paris Agreement”. Boris Johnson acknowledged that there was no prospect of a formal engagement on the 1.5 ° C threshold in Glasgow. But if the path to this goal is not cleared, world leaders will knowingly lock the planet on a journey to environmental catastrophe. This year’s extreme weather events – the terrible heatwaves, wildfires and floods that made headlines around the world – are proof that the destructive consequences of global warming are occurring faster than expected and beyond expectations. larger scale. The world today is 1.1 to 1.2 ° C warmer than in the pre-industrial era. Heating above 1.5 ° C would lead to even more devastating droughts and crop losses. This would increase the chances of greater famine and ecosystem collapse.

There are signs that the politics of this existential crisis is finally moving in the right direction. Joe Biden’s $ 555 billion climate mitigation plan, the bulk of his latest Build Back Better proposal, is a start. The president will have to do more to get the United States to play a leading global role in reducing emissions. China, by far the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to stop funding overseas coal-fired heating projects and pledged to net zero emissions by 2060. President Xi Jinping also set an interim maximum emissions target of 2030. The European Union has proposed new legislation on carbon-intensive industrial emissions, transport and imports, designed to reduce emissions to 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. These measures reflect a late sense of urgency; but time is running out in the race to close the gap between the total emission reductions proposed by countries and the level actually required.

For the 1.5 ° C target to remain attainable, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by almost half by 2030. According to the UN, the combined national climate plans of the 197 countries represented in Glasgow do not come close. Countries like Russia and India, which have not yet made a commitment to achieve net zero, much more is needed. Cop26 is unlikely to produce the drama of a Parisian breakthrough; but it must pave the way for concerted global action to accelerate emission reductions. Concrete measures are needed in areas such as phasing out coal, reducing methane gas emissions, preserving carbon sinks such as forests and peatlands, and financing climate change mitigation in the regions. developing countries.

Great Britain, as host of Cop26, will be holding the ring for the next two weeks. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that as Mr Johnson is beating the drum for countries to take more action, his own government is gleefully licensing new oil fields in the North Sea. It is precisely this kind of gap between rhetoric and action that needs to be addressed in Glasgow, if the conference is to be considered a success. There is no more room for maneuver. What is done and left behind in this decade will determine the fate of future generations. As a UN pre-summit declaration concluded bluntly last week: “Eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately make the cuts.” Time is running out. “


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