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Thursday, May 23, 2024

COP26 must put an end to empty words

"Stop the blah blah blah, as Greta Thunberg said."

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When their representatives affixed their signatures to the Climate Change Accord in Paris in 2015, the peoples of the great majority of the world’s 192 states and territories probably thought that the decisive step had been taken toward getting the entire international community behind a massive collective drive to end global warming. After all, the world’s leading carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters – U.S. and China – had signed the Accord and made substantial, timeline commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.

But today, six years after the Paris signing ceremony, there is increasing concern among scientists and climate-change advocates that the global warming target set in Paris – a maximum 1.5 degrees Celsius increase by 2030 over the pre-Industrial Age average temperature – will not be met. This concern has triggered a growing number of protest actions across the globe. The latest, and best-publicized, was a meeting in Rome of international youth activists at which the main speaker was the renowned Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. 

In the speeches that she has made over the years the youthful Swede has never minced her words; In the Rome meeting she did even less word-mincing. In what doubtless will come to be known as her Blah Blah Blah Speech, Greta Thunberg said that many world leaders attend world conferences and deliver eloquent speeches that turn out to be just blah blah blah. The Rome audience loved her speech; the international media lapped it up because of its sock-it-to-them quality.

The principal target of Ms. Thunberg’s address to the meeting was COP (Conference of the Parties) 26, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland in early November. Her message to the participants in COP26 was brief and unmistakable: Stop engaging in blah blah blah and fulfill your commitments.

Greta Thunberg and her youthful co-advocates are right in protesting strongly and steadfastly the pace of world – and especially developed-world – progress toward meeting the challenge of global warming. Extensive production and use of fossil fuels and coal continue in most of the leading industrial countries, including the U.S. and China, the world’s largest economies. Recently, the Chinese government, fearful that the rebound of the Chinese economy might be hurt by power shortages, approved an increase in the allowable production of coal. And last week the president of COP26 drew attention to the stark fact that most of the rest of the G-20 countries, including Brazil, Australia and India, still have not made firm commitments on carbon-emissions reduction. The G-20 countries account for close to 70 percent world GDP (gross domestic product).

This is not to say that little progress has been made toward trying to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. In fact, a significant amount of progress has been recorded during the last six years – in the production of RE (renewable energy), in the stepped-up manufacture of electric cars, in the more intensive search for and dissemination of energy resources, in more energy-efficient design of infrastructure, etc. But much more needs to be done in Glasgow and afterward.

Notice also should be taken of the fact that all the international financial institutions have pledged to stop providing financing for coal plants. Ms. Thunberg and her allies should start agitating for all private financial institutions to also stop financing coal plants.

A major achievement of COP26 would be getting the G-20 countries to lay down commitments – with timelines – for ending their production, export, and use of coal. With its position as one of the world’s leading coal producers, positive action by Australia will be a further major take-away from COP26.

As Greta Thunberg said in her charming manner, the world’s leaders should, in Glasgow, stop engaging in blah blah blah and start putting their money where their mouths are.

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