COP26: Will there be real action on climate change, or just more “blah, blah, blah”?

“Rebuild better. Blah, blah, blah.

Green economy. Blah, blah, blah.

Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.

Climate neutral. Blah, blah, blah.

It’s been a month since eco-warrior Greta Thunberg once again stormed the climate action scene and once again demonstrated the devastating power of her outspoken speech. The platform was the Youth4Climate conference in Milan, but the target was undoubtedly the next global climate conference, COP26, which will start on October 31 in Glasgow.

“That’s all we hear from our so-called leaders: words,” Thunberg continued. “We’ve had 30 years of their blah, blah, blah.”

This is the cleverly placed sound clip against which the two-week high will be measured: more words drifting far into the future? Or clear, measurable and short-term actions?

Long-term promises have been the hallmark of the annual gathering, postponed last year due to the pandemic. The time for such a blast of smoke has elapsed. As John Kerry, the United States’ special envoy on climate change, said this week, Glasgow is the “last best hope” to act now to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. “We have to hit the road here and we’ve been talking about it for 30 years,” he told BBC News.

Tragically, it’s never been easier to detail real-life examples of a world on the brink. As sandstorms silt into cropland in Madagascar, the United Nations warns the country is on the brink of the world’s first climate change-related famine, with its starving population doing nothing to contribute to the climate catastrophe.

The heat wave trapping heat dome that swept across Canada’s west coast and the Pacific Northwest in July pushed temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and killed hundreds.

Our oceans are hotter than ever in history.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented the monumental deaths of marine animals along the coastline of the Salish Sea.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming will cause sea level to rise by one meter by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, and quickly. A bold headline in a recent panel report helps: “Human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate for 2,000 years.” “

The European Commission predicts nearly 100,000 deaths per year in Europe due to extreme heat if global warming increases by three degrees Celsius by the end of the century. What is currently considered a 50-year heat wave in Spain could happen every year, and deadly, in this scenario.

And so on. We hardly know where to stop.

When the United Nations launched its first Conference of the Parties, or COP, all these years ago, the scientific evidence was much less clear.

In 2015, 191 countries, plus the European Union, gathered at COP21 to sign a legally binding international treaty committing to more ambitious climate action to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. The Paris Agreement has been hailed for setting long-term goals to limit the increase in global temperature to well below two degrees while continuing “efforts” to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The commitments – such a sweet word – had to be reviewed every five years.

Yet greenhouse gas emissions are increasing and the world remains on track to three degrees of global warming. Just this week, the United Nations revealed that governments, despite their lofty “ambitions”, still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 compared to the 1.5 degree target.

No wonder Greta Thunberg is fed up with rhetoric.

On Wednesday, she tweeted a link to this UN report. “It may no longer be possible for politicians to get away with ignoring the gap between their words and their actions,” she wrote. It is indisputable. The challenge of COP26 will be to convincingly demonstrate that swift action will finally be taken.

Saturday: COP26 – Politics, the players and the obstacles to success.

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