World leaders admit “window” to avoid worst of climate change “closing fast”

World leaders gathered Monday in Glasgow (United Kingdom) to begin negotiations at the climate summit (COP26) have admitted that “the window of opportunity” to avoid the worst consequences of global warming “is closing fast”. The still German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has acknowledged that “the plans do not take us where we should”.

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The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC is receding. “It’s been six years since the Paris Agreement and we’re not on track,” French President Emanuel Macron has chided. “Our trajectory is towards 2.7ºC,” as the UN has calculated with the national plans submitted for this COP in hand. That would make the Paris agreement, the pride of French diplomacy, fail.

Macron has set homework to the delegations in Glasgow. “Very strong words have been said today, but what is needed is for enough commitment to emerge to make the 1.5°C target achievable,” he reiterated. “The key to this summit is for the big emitters [of Co2] who are not on that trajectory to raise their ambition.” But neither China, Russia nor Brazil have shown up, at least not on this day of COP26.

“Heading for disaster”

A little earlier, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, defended the conclusion of the work of his technicians: “We are still heading for climate disaster. Failure is not an option, it is a death sentence,” he said in front of the heads of state and government present in the Scottish city.

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With this scenario, and at the same time, the World Meteorological Organization (WHO) has drawn the global state of this year’s climate. With the data now available, 2021 will be only

between “the fifth and seventh warmest year on record”. The La Niña phenomenon has held back the thermometer a bit. Still, all of the warmest years on record have come after the Paris Agreement on climate change was reached in 2015.

At least at this early stage of the work there seems to be consensus on the backlog that has built up. “Climate change is wreaking havoc and every day we delay the price is higher so Glasgow must be a start to raise ambition,” US President Joe Biden said in his speech. “A turning point, a change of course”, summarized the President of the Government Pedro Sánchez, who opened the speeches.

“Extreme weather phenomena are already the new norm,” said WHO Secretary General Petteri Taalas on Monday, after seeing the organization’s report. This includes the extreme heat waves that swept through the western part of North America and also the countries of the Mediterranean basin. Also the rains received in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou which, in just one day (20 July), were equivalent to the total annual average rainfall at that latitude. In Germany and Belgium, summer rains caused floods with 200 fatalities.

The COP26 in Glasgow has a few key points to then evaluate if this environment has been translated into more concrete actions: that global warming can be stopped by 1.5ºC (which requires a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions this decade). That there be funding for countries paying the consequences of the climate crisis and that there be a common system for evaluating countries.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also criticized the direction the fight against climate change has taken: “How much more science do we need? We leaders must do better. To which German leader Merkel seems to have responded by saying that “we have to finish this summit better than we started it and implement the Paris Agreement.” It is states’ climate plans that, at the moment, make it impossible to deliver on that agreement.

The Meteorological Organization’s analysis has once again provided evidence of climate disruption and its consequences. Measurements of the average sea level show that the oceans continue to rise at a rate of more than three millimetres a year and that marine waters absorb 23% of CO2 emissions each year which increases their acidity and prevents life.

“Is this the end of our story?” asked naturalist David Attenborough during the summit’s opening ceremony. “Generations to come will look at this summit and consider only one thing: did the concentration of CO2 stop and was it reduced by the commitments they made here? They have every reason to think that the answer may be yes. If everyone on their own has been able to destabilize the world, together we have the power to save it.

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