Glasgow, world’s last chance to avert climate crisis

At Glasgow, the world’s last chance to fight climate change

The meeting was to have been held last year but was put off due to the pandemic

Green light installation is illuminated outside Number 10 Downing Street ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, in London. Credit: Reuters Photo

The climate change conference in Glasgow, which is the 26th meeting of the United Nations Conference of Parties (CoP) and is set to begin on Sunday, is said to be the last chance for humanity to take steps to avert a global disaster. The meeting, to be attended by heads of state from 120 countries, is crucial as it is the culmination of years of international efforts to find a common ground and strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The meeting was to have been held last year but was put off due to the pandemic. All countries had made undertakings to voluntarily reduce carbon emissions at the 2015 Paris Conference. CoP26 was expected to review the progress on this, and that might be done in Glasgow. One benefit of the postponement is the return of the US, under President Joe Biden, to the table, reversing Donald Trump’s withdrawal from it. The participation of the US is important. There cannot be any useful climate agreement without the world's second-biggest carbon emitter being a party to it. 

Discussions and negotiations on climate change have underlined the need to formulate strategies that would help to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. This was agreed upon in Paris. But this would demand achievement of a 45% reduction in carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 and then ‘net zero' emissions, which means emission levels that can be naturally absorbed, by 2050. These are extremely difficult, even impossible, targets, especially for developing countries. The US, the European Union (EU) and Britain have declared ‘net zero’ targets by 2050; China has set a 2060 target. India has not accepted it. As in the case with the US, no agreement will be possible at Glasgow without the world’s biggest and third-biggest emitters on board. 

Developed countries have to go much farther than they have agreed to do till now to ensure that there is an agreement. This is because the present situation is the result of the huge emissions by them in the last 150 years. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities demands that they compensate developing countries for the mitigation steps, transfer appropriate technologies to them and support them in other ways to implement their development and climate change strategies. But they have not honoured their commitments in these respects. It is difficult to predict whether there will be an agreement acceptable to all countries at Glasgow. It is even more difficult to say if even the best agreement will be good enough to reverse the climate change threat. 

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