The last few days in Glasgow have been as fickle as, well, the climate.
The magnitude of the two-week COP26 summit in the Scottish city is notable in timing and size, with nearly 40,000 people registered for the event, including roughly 21,700 representatives from official national delegations, 14,000 observers from activist groups and nonprofits and some 3,700 members of the media.
If the numbers hold, this would make COP26 even bigger than the 2015 meeting in Paris, where nations finally signed an agreement to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. (Some 30,000 people attended COP21.)
An analysis by the United Kingdom-based website Carbon Brief found attendance at COPs tends to spike when expectations for the meeting are high, according to The Washington Post.
Before the 2009 conference in Copenhagen, where nations were expected to adopt a new framework for averting catastrophic warming, registration nearly tripled. That event ended in disappointment, with nations failing to unanimously pass even a weak statement saying that warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius should be avoided, The Post reported.
The stakes could not be higher. Some experts and leaders are saying this is the last chance to make pledges. World leaders, environmental experts and activists are all pleading for decisive action to halt the global warming which threatens the future of the planet.
“The animals are disappearing, the rivers are dying and our plants don’t flower like they did before. The Earth is speaking. She tells us that we have no more time,” Txai Surui, a 24-year-old indigenous youth leader from the Amazon rain forest, told the opening ceremony in Glasgow.
Delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, COP26 aims to keep alive a target of capping global warming at 2.7 Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.
The task facing negotiators was made even more daunting by the failure of the Group of 20 major industrial nations to agree to ambitious new commitments at the weekend.
The G20 is responsible for around 80% of global greenhouse gases and a similar proportion of carbon dioxide, the gas produced by burning fossil fuels that is the main cause of the rise in global temperatures which are triggering an increasing intensity of heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms.
According Reuters, to do that, it needs to secure more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions, lock in billions in climate financing for developing countries, and finish the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, which was signed by nearly 200 countries.
More than 100 global leaders late on Monday pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade, underpinned by $19 billion in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests.
Then, on Tuesday, the United States and European Union revealed that more than 90 nations had signed the Global Methane Pledge, which calls for 30% cuts in emissions by 2030. And in the United States, the Biden administration unveiled proposals to curtail methane emissions in the nation’s vast oil and gas infrastructure.
The Clean Air Task Force indicated the global pledge now includes six of the 10 largest methane emitters and covers about 45 percent of global methane emissions. Among the countries that did not sign up were two of the biggest — China and Russia.
President Joe Biden used his closing remarks Tuesday to make a last-minute pitch for his $1.75 trillion spending package and the raft of climate initiative included in it. According to The Washington Post, he called the fight against climate change “not just a moral imperative but an economic imperative as well,” Biden repeated his case that the hotly debated legislation will create jobs at home while tackling a worldwide threat.
He is correct. This is a pivotal moment that requires real commitment.
The good news is it is not lost on our world leaders. “The people who will judge us are children not yet born and their children, and we are now coming center stage before a vast and uncountable audience of posterity, and we must not fluff our lines or miss our cue, because if we fail they will not forgive us.” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.
“We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth. If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet. Surely working together, we are powerful enough to save it,” said veteran British broadcaster and documentary maker David Attenborough during his remarks.
We cannot wait for the next summit.