Sunday, September 26

COP26 will be the most important summit in history, but the UK leadership is already falling short | Kate blagojevic

TThis summer alone, domes of scorching heat suffocated parts of the US and Canada with record temperatures, and scorching heat waves swept through Pakistan. Torrential rains have caused devastating floods in China, as well as India, Germany, Belgium and Austria. And as fires rage in Siberia, Madagascar is experiencing the world’s first famine. caused only by the climate crisis. Even here in the UK, the first extreme heat warnings were issued earlier this week.

New extreme weather events linked to the climate crisis have become continuous news. Its destruction and death toll are a daily reminder that the UK-hosted Cop26 this autumn is not just the most important climate conference ever held, but the most important international summit of all time.

With the global scientific community warning us that we only have eight years to implement the necessary measures to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of an irreversible and uncontrolled climate collapse, failed talks are not an option.

There are only 100 days left until the summit begins in Glasgow, but there is a lot to do and a long way to go if the UK is to make it a success. All countries must come up with tangible goals and policies for the next decade that will reduce global emissions enough to keep alive the goal of the Paris agreement: to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees.

This requires careful diplomacy, inspired leadership, and an example for others to follow. Much of the summit’s success depends on the credibility of the UK presidency when negotiations get tough – credibility that depends on action, not words.

The British government claims to be a world leader in climate action. Yes, it has some of the toughest climate targets, but targets alone won’t cut emissions. Even Boris Johnson’s own climate advisers warned last month that he fails to combine rhetoric with action.

Looking at the key areas in which global action needs to take place at Cop26 through the lens of UK government national action, it’s actually quite disturbing to think that we are in charge.

Take fossil fuels. In May, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world’s leading group of energy experts, made clear that there must be no new oil, gas or coal projects approved anywhere beyond 2021 if the world wants. stay on track of reaching 1.5 degrees. There can be no success at Cop26 unless this is addressed head-on, with leaders around the world committing to completely phase out fossil fuels. But how is Johnson or Cop26 Chairman Alok Sharma going to make such demands if this administration does not rule out a new oil field in the North Sea that intends to extract 150 million barrels of oil? Even Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry has warned against The plan.

It’s a similar story when it comes to international climate finance. For more than a decade, wealthy nations, those responsible for the vast majority of emissions causing the climate crisis, have failed to deliver the $ 100 billion a year promised to help countries in the global south reduce emissions and adapt to the increasingly intense impacts of the climate crisis. crisis. However, this broken promise is out of date. The world climate summit must generate a significant increase of that $ 100 billion to address the social, cultural and economic losses and damages caused by increasing climate impacts.

But, as the nation leading these talks, the British government has once again set a terrible precedent by not provide genuinely new funding for international climate finance, while cutting the UK aid budget. This threatens millions of lives and livelihoods around the world and fundamentally deteriorates relations with developing nations, which did so little to cause our climate crisis.

Hypocrisy abounds, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s also the small matter of ensuring that all nations come up with strong goals, policies, and plans that actually deliver the necessary emissions cuts from all countries on tight deadlines that will prevent temperatures from spiraling out of control.

These plans must come with firm rules to ensure that governments do not simply rely on carbon offsetting as a means of reducing emissions, where a company or (generally rich) country buys “credits” from projects in (generally poor) countries. from other places. Offsets have a history of being ineffective and licensing polluters to continue their normal activities. But in any case, shifting responsibility simply won’t work: global emissions must drop to zero by 2050.

The British government, however, has the ambition to make London the global hub for commerce of voluntary carbon offsets. In other words, Rishi Sunak wants the UK to become the center of greenwashing, taking advantage of attempts to circumvent the required emissions cuts. Once again, we are setting a dire example for others to follow.

Cop26 is our last best chance to address the worst effects of the climate crisis. As a host, the UK is critical to your success. With just 100 days to go, we need to see some bold announcements from the government that show that you are willing to put your own house in order and inspire others to step up.

This starts with pledging to end all new fossil fuel projects immediately and supporting workers in the transition. A nationwide energy efficiency program should be implemented quickly with plans and money to decarbonize home heating.

It must take a U-turn from plans to eliminate the aid budget and announce limited cash for countries in the global south to address and adapt to climate change. And it should scrap plans to turn London into a clearinghouse, making it mandatory for all financial institutions and large companies to prioritize reducing their emissions at source over the next decade.

Only by practicing what it preaches will the British government really be able to walk around Glasgow. If we don’t, our “world leading” emissions reduction targets sound blatantly hollow and risk jeopardizing the talks entirely.

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