By staff writer
As the two-week-long United Nations global conference on climate change COP 26 (Conference of the Parties) was getting underway in Scotland on Monday, it was already clear that the outcome would be predicated on two important dates; 2030 and 2050.
The challenge facing world leaders is to fullfil the commitment to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2030 from 2010 and reach what is called ‘net zero’ by 2050.
Scientists say this would avoid the most destructive consequences if global emissions remained at their current rate.
However, it has been stated that COP26 will almost certainly not deliver enough pledges to put the world firmly on course for 1.5C, but a credible deal to ramp up ambition more frequently in the coming years could at least keep it alive.
Leading up to - and at the start of COP 26 - there has been no shortage of warnings of the climate crisis, and pledges to do something to avert a further worsening of the situation.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If Glasgow fails, then the whole thing fails. If we don’t act now, the Paris Agreement will be looked at in the future not as the moment humanity opened its eyes to the problem but the moment it flinched and turned away.”
HRH Prince Charles said: “Quite literally, it is the last chance saloon. We must now translate fine words into still finer actions.”
And this stark warning from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: “Let’s be clear – there is a serious risk that Glasgow will not deliver.”
The world’s richest and most industrially developed countries are already at odds over the practicalities of reaching that goal with mounting pressure on them to put action over ambition.
With their economies heavily dependent on energy from heavily coal and other fossil fuels, industrialised countries are still the world’s greatest polluters land contributors to global warming.
This is despite the current emphasis on developing and deploying alternative energy sources.
Experts say the challenge is getting these up to scale where the economic benefits can be realised nationally with trickle-down impact where consumers could directly benefit from savings on their fuel and other bills.
Developing and poor countries have long complained that as the clients, importers and consumers of energy produced by rich nations they are left to bear the brunt of the effects on their environment, economies and societies caused by climate change.
More severe storms, coastal erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, and economic dislocation for their citizens.
A World Bank report estimates that “the effects of climate change could push an additional 100 million people below the poverty line by 2030. In addition, the impact of extreme weather is resulting in $520 billion in annual consumption losses and is pushing 26 million people into poverty each year.”
A remark by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at last weekend’s G20 global leader’s summit in Italy (ahead of COP 26) was significant for what it could mean for smaller, developing and poor nations.
“The countries most responsible for historic and present-day emissions are not yet doing their fair share of the work. If we are going to prevent COP26 from being a failure, then that must change,” he said.
With small, developing nations in attendance and having so much at stake at COP 26, it’s noteworthy that Grenada has been tasked with Denmark in drawing up options to ensure that coming out of COP26, the pledges made are put into practice for achieving the target 1.5 centigrade cap by 2030.
Meanwhile, the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who currently chairs the Alliance of Small Island States, has joined with Tuvalu to seek redress in the international courts for the effects of climate change on their countries caused by industrialised nations.
Speaking in Scotland, Mr Browne said, “Small island states emission of greenhouse gases is negligible but they bear the overwhelming burden of its catastrophic effects.”