Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 30, 2021
COP26 climate talks off to an ominous start after weak G20 leaders’ meeting
It was in the city of Glasgow that Scottish engineer James Watt improved the workings of the steam engine and, unwittingly, kicked off the Industrial Revolution. Never could he have imagined that humans would burn so much coal, oil and gas over the next two centuries that they would imperil the very climate that has allowed for their existence.
More than 120 leaders will speak Monday in the very same city to begin the COP26 climate talks, where they will set the tone for two weeks of negotiations that can either end with a plan to rapidly decarbonize the planet, or make watery statements to delay what the science shows is needed, possibly pushing it off until it’s too late. Climate leaders and experts are calling it the world’s last best chance to address the climate crisis.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose government is hosting the talks, will warn Monday that humanity has run down the clock on climate change.
“It’s one minute to midnight, and we need to act now,” he will say in an opening speech, according to remarks sent to journalists.
“We have to move from talk and debate and discussion to concerted, real-world action on coal, cars, cash and trees. Not more hopes and targets and aspirations, valuable though they are, but clear commitments and concrete timetables for change.”
The G20 leaders’ meeting that ended in Rome on Sunday suggests that leaders are finally listening to the science, but they still lack the political unity to make the ambitious decisions required to meet the moment.
The latest UN climate science report published in August made clear what needs to happen — deep, sustained cuts to greenhouse gas emissions over this decade to have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above levels before industrialization. Even with all the newly announced pledges, the world is still on track for 2.7 degrees of heating.
Global warming beyond 1.5 degrees will bring worsening impacts of the climate crisis. But the positive news is that the 1.5 limit is entirely in our reach. The UN report showed that by mid-century, the world needs to reach net zero — where greenhouse gas emissions are no greater than the amount removed from the atmosphere — and warming can be stopped in its tracks.
All of this scientific language was in the G20 leaders’ communiqué, including an acknowledgment that to meet net zero by mid-century, many member nations will need to lift their emissions-reductions pledges, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), over this decade. (CNN)