“Enough of mistreating biodiversity. No more treating nature like a toilet. Stop burning, drilling and mining deeper. We are digging our own grave,” warned the UN Secretary General as he opened COP26 to leaders of more than 120 nations gathered in Glasgow.
“The world’s anger and impatience will be unstoppable unless we make this COP26 the moment when we get serious about tackling climate change,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he hosted the event.
During twelve days of negotiations, which usually go late into the night, delegates from nearly 200 countries must take strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, announce measures for mutual control, transparency in their environmental policy, and especially reductions by richer countries in order to meet a pledge of $100 billion a year for poor and vulnerable countries.
However, there are major absentees from the inaugural two-day summit in Glasgow, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whose country happens to be the biggest emitter of polluting gases, and the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who cancelled their participation at the last minute.
From Latin America, neither the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, nor the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, attended, despite the fact that the latter was present at the G20 summit, which ended on Sunday in Rome. Other countries, such as Ecuador, took centre stage, with an announcement to expand the Galapagos Islands nature reserve by 60,000 km2, adding to the current 130,000 km2, by swapping national foreign debt for the conservation of the reserve.
Others, such as Bolivian President Luis Arce, denounced “green capitalism” and claimed that climate negotiations are still dominated by rules imposed by developed countries.
A total of 196 parties signed the Paris Agreement with the aim of limiting the planet’s temperature increase to +1.5ºC, but the reality is that the Earth is heading for a 2.7ºC increase, and with these figures, its climate and ecosystems are entering “unknown territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The world emits more than 50 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases annually, according to UN estimates. One gigatonne represents one billion tonnes.
“Our studies indicate that there will be a 16% increase in emissions by 2030, when we should be seeing a 45% reduction,” summarised the executive secretary of the UN climate change body, Patricia Espinosa of Mexico.
“Animals are disappearing, rivers are dying, and our plants no longer flourish as before,” a young Brazilian indigenous woman, Walelasoetxeige Paiter Bandeira Suruí, told the leaders, “the Earth is talking to us, and it is telling us that there is no more time,” she implored.