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A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Urgent Attention to what’s going to happen at the  Glasgow Climate Summit (COP26)

27mindaviews sojourners

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 October) — Unfortunately as we are in the grip of the election fever these days, and the Kalag-kalag festivities are soon going to make us all very busy – despite the cemetery ban – very little media (both mass and social in so far as our nation-state is concerned despite Maria Ressa winning the Nobel Peace Prize) – hardly anything is being covered of all the massive preparations in the run-up to the 2021 Climate Summit – known as the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) scheduled in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12.

Consider the global context as written by Jonathan Watts in an article that appeared just a few days ago in The Guardian. (See https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ 2021/oct/28/cop26-what-at-stake-climate-summit):   “The world has already heated up by about 1.1C since the Industrial Revolution. Even at this level, delegates no longer need to read scientific studies to understand how 200 years of emissions, exhaust fumes and tree burning have destabilised the climate. All they have to do is look out the window or read recent local and global headlines. The host city, Glasgow, has just sweltered through its hottest summer on record. Globally, in the summer of 2021 there were record temperatures, fires and floods across the world, killing hundreds in the north-western Americas, choking swathes of Siberia, inundating cities in Germany and drowning subway commuters in China.”

And even as we are fortunately not so overwhelmed across the archipelago with the impact of climate change – although there have recently been typhoons, floods, landslides leading to intermittent brown-outs including here in Davao City – out there in countries like Madagascar, a million people are starving owing to the impact of a drought.  And yet despite what is happening globally and locally, most Filipinos hardly know what are the urgent issues that will come up on the floor during the 2021 Climate Summit.

Even as there are already some initiatives from some countries – e.g. Argentina, Britain, Canada, much of the E.U., South Africa and the U.S.  – in terms of upgrading their pledges to cut planet-warming emissions by 2030, nonetheless, these are far from what is needed to “to avert a dangerous rise in global temperatures,” according to a recent report from the United Nations’ Environment Program. In the words of its Executive Director, Mr. Inger Andersen, “The world has to wake up to the imminent peril we face as a species.”

The new pledges only make up just one-seventh of the cuts required to improve the global climate situation. Otherwise, the warnings from scientists are clear: an increase in the risk of heat waves, droughts, flooding and wildfire across the earth in the years to come.

Considering these dire predictions and despite the fact at that COP26 will involve huge expenses in terms of bringing world leaders together, generate reams of technical jargon beyond understanding of simple folks, nonetheless it is being billed as “the last chance to prevent calamitous global heating, as this climate conference in Glasgow is a debate about dialling up or dialling down risk.”

Delegates to the conference will converge within the backdrop of the hottest summer on record across the globe as there were record temperatures, fires and floods across the world (inundating cities in Germany, drowning subway from China to New York), killing hundreds in the north-western Americas and causing havoc everywhere. All these because the world has already heated up by about 1.1C since the Industrial Revolution.

COP26 primarily aims at nudging the world to as low as possible within the 1.5C  target band,  established under the Paris Agreement which is considered the safest climate landing zone that humanity might still reach. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a slip of even half a degree would dial the risks up substantially. If this takes place, roughly “420 million more people would be frequently exposed to extreme heat-waves and heat-related deaths would rise twice as fast if temperatures reach 2C rather than 1.5C.” That half a degree would mean significantly more climate-related water stress, hunger and poverty, particularly in the poorer parts of the world.

And of course, those who would most be affected are the ones who have had the least use of fossil fuels, that have mainly caused climate change:  countries facing the Pacific (including our nation-state), south-east Asia, Amazonia (especially Brazil and Mexico), southern Africa, and even central Europe and the Mediterranean.  There would be a high risk to food security as droughts would intermittently take place along with floods – which are both bad news to food production.

At COP26, the world’s leaders are expected to review their agreements made at the Paris Summit (2015) to update their national climate action plans every five years.  This year, they’re expected to have ambitious targets for their nationally determined contributions through 2030. The initial set of emission reduction targets in 2015 was considered far too weak to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Thus at COP26 the target is to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. One key goal of COP26 is to ratchet up these targets

Another goal deals with the issue of justice for many developing countries who contributed least to climate change, by increasing climate finance. These would help poorer countries’ transition to clean energy in the hope of adapting to climate change. In 2009, the rich countries promised to contribute $100 billion by 2020 for this fund but which was not fulfilled. COP26 hopes to get the countries who are the worst greenhouse emitters – U.S., U.K. and EU – to increase their financial commitments. Also banks, businesses, insurers and private investors are being asked to do more. Corollary to its over-all aims is to “include phasing out coal use and generating solutions that preserve, restore or regenerate natural carbon sinks, such as forests.”

As with the Paris Summit, there are high expectations of COP26. To ensure that there is more participation from among grassroots communities across the world, a parallel People’s Summit for Climate Justice is also being held in Glasgow the following week, to ensure that civil society and grassroots organizations can continue to pressure their governments to do more according to the resolutions of the conference. Unless the people themselves hold their governments accountable in pursuing goals to limit the impact of climate change and ensure that more action is done to promote climate justice, we might as well prepare ourselves for the worst case scenario!

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books and is a recipient of various awards.]

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