COP 26: Will The World Step Up?
This article covers topics such as China, climate change, the state of politics and the future of Britain amongst others. Personally, I hope to write more in-depth articles about these in the future.
The upcoming international climate summit in Glasgow next month is the most crucial yet for the future of the planet. It is a summit that future generations will no doubt judge as either a much needed turning point in limiting global warming, or as further kicking and declines in hope that we have become used to.
The good news is that the world has finally woken up to the threat of climate change and are beginning to act. In the past year alone, countries have faced record breaking temperatures, larger and longer wildfires, floods; the list goes on. The economic and human cost of these tragedies will only increase as time progresses.
This brings us to the summit. For it to be a success, all countries need to commit to large reductions in emissions targets and monetary targets for developing nations in order to keep global warming from rising more than 1.5 degrees. This was the initial Paris agreement signed in 2015 however, the world quickly fell off track and the window to resolve this is closing fast.
If this is not achieved the summit will unquestionably be a failure. It could also be the beginning of something more sinister. As climate change rears its head more frequently, the consequences are becoming clearer. A report by US intelligence on climate change suggests a more divided world, water wars and millions displaced - the world cannot afford this.
All countries have targets but persuading leaders to make them more aggressive requires more action now which is his particularly difficult for those with carbon intensive industries such as Australia, which export coal. The economic evidence is clear in that delaying transitioning to greener alternatives now will only cost more in the future. This is not a step however, that enough countries have been willing to take up to now.
Unfortunately, politics across the world has become more partisan, populist, and short-term focused which regrettably comes at the cost of climate action. It has made implementing long term plans such as renewable energy and retraining the workforce impossible, as it is not compatible with the frequency of political soundbites and cheap point-scoring we see today.
Leaders’ also prioritise concerns of domestic support in the polls. The public are very much in favour of caring for the planet, but this opinion often changes when they find out what this means for them. Boris Johnson’s green strategy of converting gas boilers to heat pumps and scrapping petrol cars evidently involves additional costs for the consumer making such schemes a tough sell for many citizens. The biggest obstacle however to public support is China’s climate stance.
China is the world’s largest emitter by some considerable distance. Without China’s commitment to reducing emissions now, the aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be missed. It can hardly be fair for China’s emissions to keep climbing whilst everyone else takes the tough measures to curb their emissions. Yet, China has indicated Xi Jinping the president will not be attending suggesting they have no intention to comply. This alarming refusal could simply cause the summit to fail before it even begins.
COP26 poses many challenges but is unlikely to produce any simple answers. This is not however, an excuse for more dither and delay. This risks grave consequences.
The world will be watching.
Matt Taylor (Economics BSc, UEA)
Opinions in this article are representative of the author only.
This article was written by a member of our student-led initiative, the International Perspective.
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