The eyes of the world will be on your summit for 12 days in November, but the consequences of any decisions taken in Glasgow will last for decades to come.
This crucial UN summit is due to take place six years after over 190 governments signed the Paris Agreement. This accord bound signatories into policies to work towards keeping global temperature rises to below two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, and ideally within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels. If the world goes above these temperatures, scientists predict that lives in under-developed countries around the world will be particularly severely affected.
Flooding, droughts, extreme heat and typhoons have brought devastation to these communities, but increasingly the effects of climate change are being felt on a more regular basis in areas which don’t have access to basic rights, such as to clean water supplies.
Climate change is being felt from Malawi to Ethiopia, Haiti and areas such as south-east Asia. These fragile communities are on the frontline of the environmental crisis. In the UK, people are routinely being driven from their homes and businesses by flooding of the likes seen in parts of Wales and the Midlands in early 2020.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided further impetus for the work of the Paris Agreement. It said global temperature rises must be kept to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels by 2030 or there would be potentially catastrophic consequences for the environment.
The IPCC estimated the stress caused by scarcity of water for communities would be reduced by 50% and climate poverty would be less of an issue for hundreds of millions of people if the global temperature rises were kept to 1.5 degrees centigrade, compared to two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.
COVID-19 has shown the dangers of inaction and mixed messages by governments on public health. In Brazil, where there have been over 200,000 deaths from the virus and the US, where the death toll to date has topped 420,000.
There were emissions reductions of up to 30% in emissions after the world locked down last year, but CO2 polluting activities rebounded as countries attempt to restore their economies.
The pandemic showed how people and governments have the capability to reduce emissions from industry, aviation and ground-based transport and COVID-19 lessons should be applied now to avoid a similar situation involving climate change.
A successful COP26 will allow governments to concentrate on building back their nations as more sustainable through a just transition in terms of jobs as industries move away from traditional fossil fuel-based industries and agricultural practices become less polluting.
World leaders arriving in Glasgow in November should remember the school’s strikes’ climate justice protests, which saw thousands of young people protest across Scotland, including major demonstrations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, before the pandemic.
These young people cannot currently protest due to lockdowns, but that does not diminish their voices. If anything this makes them even important.
In the run up to the Glasgow summit, I would ask domestic politicians to highlight any lack of progress on climate change targets or any dilution of legislation to slow the pace of climate change.
This includes the UK Environment Bill, which is sadly now delayed by six months due to COVID-19.
The Scottish Government’s climate change legislation in 2019 showed the political will to reduce Scotland’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045. It is backed up by the updated Climate Change Plan which lays out the polices to 2032. With the UK Government setting a target to achieve net-zero by 2050, the support must be given to people and businesses to make the transition to a low carbon economy in the coming years.
Recent surveys suggest between 68% and 79% of people in Scotland believe climate change is a pressing problem and world leaders must leave Glasgow with an enforceable treaty to slash emissions.
John Bynorth, Policy & Communications Officer, Environmental Protection Scotland
- @EPSScotland is active and influential in the fields of air quality, land quality, noise and are at the fore of emerging environmental issues, including working towards sustainable development for a resilient Scotland.