The 26th Conference of the of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) ended 13/11/2021.

Science, People & Politics. ISSN: 1751598x. Issue 3 (July – Sept.) 2021.
We delayed publication for the end of COP 26. Publication 15/11/2021. For incorporation into pdf.




"…when yet another hurricane devastates my country, the treasury is empty. Protecting countries from climate disaster is not charity. It is solidarity and enlightened self-interest."

Remarks of Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, at the closing on 13th November 2021 of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The conference was extended by one day beyond what was originally planned. Mr Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, imagined himself in his speech into the shoes of the leader of a country vulnerable to the consequences of climate change in response to global warming.

By Helen Gavaghan

COP 26 missed the jackpot.

The aim of the climate-change conference, COP 26, which ended in Glasgow at the weekend, was simple. Work co-operatively and internationally to deal with climate change resulting from global warming. That work needs to be against a backdrop of economic development for least developed nations and coupled with poverty eradication. All to be undertaken without depleting the planet’s resources. In the final document from COP 26 – The Glasgow Climate Pact – important building blocks were established in finance, ending deforestation, and drastically reducing the greenhouse gas, methane. But the final text of the meeting was a compromise. "The political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions," said Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations. Coal is a significant stumbling block in the fight against global warming.

Scientific analysis concludes that to reach the 1.5 ℃ target, emission of greenhouse gasses like methane and carbon dioxide must by 2030 reach 45 percent below those of 2010. Burning coal emits a lot of carbon dioxide, and it remains in the atmosphere longer than methane does. With that in mind the secretary general of the UN, Antonio Guterres, has already put Glasgow behind him. He says it is time now for the nations to go into emergency mode. Guterres is looking toward next year's climate change meeting in Egypt, and the one after that in 2023 in the United Arab Emirates. The prize is to reach net zero by 2050. That means a combination of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and not destroying sinks which absorb greenhouse gasses, so that what is emitted is balanced by what is absorbed. Even with net zero, much of the already emitted greenhouse gasses remain in the atmosphere, and temperatures will remain elevated until they come down naturally.

Members of the UN tackle their national response to greenhouse gas emissions through national commitments such as switching to renewable energy, and they seek to quantify their actions in terms of how much reduction there is of greenhouse gas emission as a result. In UN speak, these are nationally defined contributions (NDCs). More national commitments are needed because the world otherwise will exceed the goal of no more than 1.5 ℃ above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. Already Earth has warmed about 1.1 ℃ above pre-industrial levels. Resulting extreme weather events and national disasters such as forest fires give an inkling of how much worse matters could become for people and the planet's flora and fauna.

Given these realities Guterres is calling also for developing and least developing nations to step up their plans to meet the consequences of global warming. The UN language for that process is "adaptation", and the text of the Glasgow Climate pact formalises Guterres's call for adaptation to move front and centre.

Guterres wants the world to commit to what was hoped for from this conference. That is: an end to fossil fuel subsidies; phase out coal; put a price on carbon; plan for the worst by creating ways to cope with climate change, and for the developed economies to make good on their $100 billion dollar pledge to support developing countries through what is a seismic global transition. To meet the challenge, nations need to act locally as well as nationally. To help the process along Guterres is convening a global stock taking in 2023 when heads of state can review updated climate plans. He is convening a high-level expert meeting also to establish standards against which the contributions of non-state actors can be assessed.

"Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread," says Guterres, and Guterres is the man the combined United Nations have chosen as their secretary general. If he tells those who appointed him they need to do better, it is time to listen.

Outcomes of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference - Advance Unedited Versions (AUVs).
Accessed on 15.11.2021.

The edit for sense of the above news item was finalised 16.11.2021. HG.