The COP26 climate summit opens in Glasgow as the ‘last and best hope’ to reach the 1.5 ° C target
The UN climate summit in Glasgow began on Sunday with calls for action and prayers, kicking off two weeks of intense diplomatic negotiations by nearly 200 countries on how to tackle the common challenge of intensifying global warming.
Following the opening deck on Sunday, leaders from around the world will gather in Scotland’s largest city on Monday to showcase their countries’ efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the effects of climate change. .
At the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis called on the people of the world to pray for world leaders’ to realize the suffering of the Earth and the poor as the climate warms.
Negotiators will pressure nations to redouble their efforts to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) this century compared to pre-industrial times.
The recently opened summit remains “our last and best hope to keep 1.5 within reach,” said Alok Sharma, the British government minister who is chairing the Glasgow talks, known as COP26.
Scientists say the chances of reaching that goal, agreed to in the landmark deal closed in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, are slowly fading. The world has already warmed by more than 1.1 ° C and current projections based on planned emission cuts for the next decade point to it reaching 2.7 ° C by the year 2100.
The amount of energy unleashed by such global warming would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and greatly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather, experts warn.
“We can move the negotiations forward and we can launch a decade of increasing ambition and action,” Sharma said at the opening ceremony. “We can take advantage of the huge green growth opportunities for good green jobs, cheaper and cleaner energy.”
He noted that China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, had just raised its climate targets a bit.
“But of course we expected more,” Sharma told the BBC early Sunday.
In Italy, the Pope noted that it was the first day of the crucial meeting in Glasgow. He told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square: “Let us pray that the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” will be heard by the summit participants.
“May this meeting produce efficient responses that offer concrete hope to future generations,” the Pope said. Francis has made caring for the planet’s fragile environment a key element of his papacy.
On Sunday in Rome, the leaders of the G-20 nations that account for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions were negotiating what commitments they are willing to make to contain rising global temperatures.
US climate envoy John Kerry warned last week of the dramatic impacts it will have on nature and people exceeding the target of the 2015 Paris agreement, but expressed optimism that the world is heading in the direction. correct. The United States is currently the second largest climate polluter in the world, although historically it is responsible for the largest amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has yet to follow China, the United States and the European Union in setting a target to achieve “net zero” emissions. Negotiators hope that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will announce that goal in Glasgow.
“We need the entire G20 to come forward,” Sharma said. “The G20 represents 80% of global emissions and that is why all countries are important, but the G20 is particularly important.”
Some of the topics that were discussed during the talks have been on the agenda for decades, including how rich countries can help poor nations tackle emissions and adapt to a warmer world. The slow pace of action has enraged many environmental activists, who are expected to stage loud and creative protests during the summit.
Also speaking in Rome on Sunday, Prince Charles urged world leaders to heed the “desperate voices” of young people who will suffer the brunt of climate change.
The heir to the British throne described the talks in Glasgow as “literally the hall of last chance” for Earth.
Charles told the leaders of the Group of 20 that they have an “overwhelming responsibility to the unborn generations.”
“It is impossible not to hear the desperate voices of young people who see them as the stewards of the planet, who have the viability of their future in their hands,” he said.
On Monday, Charles is due to receive the leaders in Glasgow. His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, 95, was supposed to attend, but her doctors have advised her to rest.
The opening day of the talks is expected to focus on procedural issues. A major concern is that not all delegates will be able to meet in person, as venue and room capacity has been limited due to COVID concerns.
The outgoing president of the meeting, Chilean Carolina Schmidt, began the talks by asking officials to observe a minute of silence for those who died from the coronavirus pandemic since the last UN climate conference was held in Madrid at the end of 2019, shortly before the outbreak. started.