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We have run out of options, our backs are to the wall

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Activists from Ocean Rebellion in front of the Hydro, Glasgow, as the city prepares for the COP26 conference

Activists from Ocean Rebellion in front of the Hydro, Glasgow, as the city prepares for the COP26 conference

Activists from Ocean Rebellion in front of the Hydro, Glasgow, as the city prepares for the COP26 conference

Despite the fact COP26 opens to the funeral drum beat of climate doom, there are reasons for believing we can do better – mainly because we have no choice.

True, we have been living in emergency intervention mode on global warming for too long – and still await the intervention.

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg could hardly have been more articulate when she summed up the value of the hot air from world leaders. She dismissed their 30 years of “blah, blah, blah” when they should have been acting to curb the crisis.

Today, some white smoke is expected from the G20 on the banning of coal. The meeting is billed as the curtain-raiser for COP26, which opens in Glasgow tomorrow.

In the past, such grand planetary pageants merely served as preparations for failure. But the Paris Accord of 2015 set down meaningful markers, and the effort to meet them has been considerable. But we are still not doing nearly enough.

Without the remotest hint of hyperbole, this week the UN’s top human rights official called for countries to act decisively, saying it is a “matter of survival” for humanity.

In her primer for tomorrow’s climate showcase, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned: “Only urgent, priority action can mitigate or avert disasters that will have huge – and in some cases lethal – impacts on all of us, especially our children and grandchildren.”

It is regrettable that two of the global “big beasts” are not represented – neither Xi Jinping of China nor Vladimir Putin of Russia are attending COP26.

The presence of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel will make the gathering look more weighted toward the industrialised north than it would otherwise have done – and appearances at such gatherings matter.

Much can still be achieved, and it has been pointed out that the absence of Xi and Putin could be more symbolic than substantive, as both will send highly placed envoys.

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Defining goals will be a vital step. Success means altering emissions trajectories in line with the Paris objectives. That must include not only net-zero targets decades into the future, but big cuts in emissions by 2030.

Pope Francis has appealed for leaders to agree a meaningful deal offering “concrete hope” to future generations.

Carbon taxes and clean energy initiatives are key to addressing a crisis on which there is little time left to act. It is no exaggeration to suggest it could lay the groundwork for humanity to step back from the brink.

Much rests on commitments to curtail carbon emissions and restrict warming to 1.5C.

The financial structures to facilitate change must be agreed. This must not be our last missed chance to preserve a sustainable planet.


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