The 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is scheduled for 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow. This is the 26th of the annual conferences and is special in that parties will be expected to ratchet up their climate goals over their pledges made when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.
Judging by a major leak of submissions to the scientists compiling the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, some governments are trying to ratchet down the climate goals. The leaks reveal intense lobbying efforts to change the language of the report in order to better satisfy what the lobbyists perceive as their economic interests.
For example, beef-producing countries Argentina and Brazil argue against evidence in the draft report that reducing meat consumption is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is particularly disturbing considering that Brazil is responsible for the Amazon rain forest, an immense carbon sink, and cattle ranching is the primary driver of forest destruction in the Amazon.
Chief among the shirkers are a number of fossil fuel producers. Saudi Arabia, the world’s major oil producer after the U.S., argues that urgent action to tackle the climate crisis isn’t even necessarily needed. They insist that technologies such as carbon capture and storage could bear enough of the load, technologies that Duncan McClaren, a Research Fellow at Lancaster Environment Centre, aptly refers to as “technologies of prevarication.”
A particular disappointing lobbyist is Australia. The Australian government rejects the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants is necessary, even though ending the use of coal is one of the stated objectives of the conference. Indeed, it shares Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the IPCC’s analysis that fossil fuels urgently need to be phased out. In defiance of attempts to reduce coal production, Australia diligently increases its production.
Nations can be expected to promote their economic interests. At times even at cost to the environment. As an Albertan I am very much aware of that. But without sacrifices the conference is doomed. As are we. And seeing this kind of opposition by so many parties, one is discouraged.
When a rich nation such as Australia, which can afford more than most to make sacrifices and is almost designed for solar power, sees half the country incinerated by wildfires, and watches its major tourist attraction, the Great Barrier Reef, dying from warming, acidifying oceans, and still pushes for ever greater coal production, one is doubly discouraged.
COP26 has been described as “the world’s last best chance.” A failure here and global warming is on its way to catastrophic levels. Despite the shirkers, I remain hopeful that most countries will at least attend the conference in good faith. But will they make the necessary progress? I’m not taking bets.