“Wildly here without control,
Nature reigns and governs everything… ”
Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, wrote these lines in 1787. If only delegates to COP26, the United Nations climate summit that ended last Saturday in Glasgow, had heeded his words. The negotiations ended with a document dubbed the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’, which many climate activists called a failure. “We should call it the ‘Glasgow suicide pact’ for the world’s poorest,” Asad Rehman of the COP26 coalition told Democracy Now! news time. “It doesn’t keep us below 1.5 degrees [Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] bodyguard. In fact, it brings us closer to 3 degrees [C, or 5.4 degrees F]… They hit so many loopholes that it makes a mockery of these climate negotiations.
A draft climate pact included a historic first, calling for “the phasing out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies”. Polluting nations and the armies of fossil fuel industry lobbyists have succeeded in diluting this to “phasing out coal-fired power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.” So coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, can still be burned with the promise that the resulting pollution will be “reduced” with unproven carbon capture and storage. And the same fossil fuel companies that have profited for so long by sowing climate disinformation will continue to receive lavish subsidies at taxpayer expense.
“This summit was a betrayal,” Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a climate justice activist from the Philippines, told Democracy Now! “It is painful for me knowing that the Philippines is such a vulnerable country to the climate crisis and that we know that we are affected year after year, month after month, by climate impacts.” The Philippines, described as the most storm-vulnerable nation in the world, has been hit hard by a succession of particularly destructive and climate change-fueled typhoons over the past decade. “All countries,” she added, “should phase out the fossil fuel industry. It doesn’t just stop at coal, but also oil and gas, which the US and UK have conveniently removed from the text. “
Defenders of indigenous lands in the Amazon were also in Glasgow for COP26. The world’s largest rainforest is called “the lungs of the planet” for the vital role it plays in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “We must first change our relationship with nature, change the way we think about the world and really put our connection to life and our commitment to future generations at the center of our thinking”, Domingo Peas, an indigenous Achuar leader from Ecuador. Amazon said on Democracy Now! “There are 30 Indigenous Nations and 30 million hectares of intact forest that are at stake. We need to protect this… The forest is calling to us.
The United States and European nations have built their enormous wealth by burning coal abandoned for more than a century and a half, a cheap but dirty way to achieve growth. The United States remains the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, with nearly double the total emitted by China, based on 2017 data. China is now by far the largest emitter in the world.
In recent years, the United States, the United Kingdom and most countries in the European Union have been able to reduce their dependence on coal, turning to oil, fracking gas and renewable sources.
Poor developing countries have not contributed significantly to the global climate crisis, but are suffering disproportionately. To recover from disasters, adapt to climate change and responsibly build their economies towards a zero carbon future, these countries need money. COP26 was supposed to provide the long-promised funding for these needs, but failed to do so.
At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the United States and other developed countries pledged $ 100 billion per year to developing and climate-vulnerable countries from 2020 to 2025. Only a fraction of these funds materialized. , largely in the form of loans and not climate aid. Meanwhile, a consortium of African nations recently estimated that the real cost to them of an effective response to climate change would be closer to $ 1.3 trillion per year. Polluters should pay and the United States should lead the way.
Robert Burns died in 1796, when the Coal Age was still in its infancy. The current Scottish National Poet is Kathleen Jamie. Inspired by the River Clyde that runs through Glasgow, she wrote this week “What the Clyde said after COP26”, which ends,
“of course I am a river,
but I can take sides.
From this day on, I’d rather stay afloat,
like small folded paper boats,
the hopes of young people
sing to my bank,
fear in their bright spring eyes
so listen to this: forsake them, and I will arise.