Enough promises, we need action
Asst Opinions Editor
The 26th Conference of Parties climate change conference just ended, which occurred between Oct. 31 and Nov. 12. During the first COP, held in Berlin and attended by only 117 countries, climate change seemed like a distant prospect. 20 years later at COP 21, 193 countries were present and the Paris Agreement was signed, the first ever legally binding global climate change document. Still lacking data as of its efficacy, some scholars point out that there is an absence of clear reporting standards and comparable information. The agreement doesn’t seem to have caused the progress it intended.
Now, six years since the PA (Paris Agreement) was signed, it seems like the COP finds itself in a revolving door of discussions and commitments that don’t corroborate with the modus operandi of some of the countries that commit. For instance, 100 countries have signed a commitment to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation, Jair Bolsonaro and Putin among them. Meanwhile, the Amazon Forest hasn’t seen higher levels of deforestation during the years of Bolsonaro’s government since 2006.
While there are the facetious who sign without the commitment of following through, there are those who water down the language to make the goals more palatable to their personal interests. Which is the case for India and China, who only agreed to “phase-down unabated coal” as opposed to phasing it out. Some of the developing countries who don’t agree with international pressure to make drastic changes, claim they don’t have the means to do so while keeping their economy afloat. Rightfully they blame developed countries for their disproportionate contribution in the emission of greenhouse gases throughout the years, requesting their financial assistance in dealing with “loss and damage.”
Loss and damage was first used in the 2007 Bali action plan to request, in item III, for “Disaster reduction strategies and means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.” Since then it was mentioned in the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage in 2013, promoting dialogue and enhancement for support from other countries, while still making no commitment to compensate countries for loss and damage.
Again in this COP, developing countries leave with a promise for more dialogue but no action when it comes to loss and damage. Meanwhile, as the conference was ending, the city of Aswan in Egypt was hit by a rare hail thunderstorm, causing highly-venomous scorpions to flee the desert and seek refuge in civilian homes. Consequently, 500 people were hospitalized due to being stung in their own homes, no deaths were reported.
The main intention for this conference was to make concessions between countries to keep the rise of global temperature at 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). While some people might have considered the conference to be successful, based on most countries track-records it doesn’t seem like we’ve seen the worst of global warming just yet. To make matters worse, during the COP days, UK’s think-tank InfluenceMap found that fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups spent as much as $574,000 on Facebook ads, resulting in more than 22 million impressions in content the think-tank considered to be “greenwashing”. Meaning they were trying to seem like they held sustainable practices when they obviously don’t.
On a positive note, more young people attended COP 26 than any other in the past. This shows an interest in the eminent danger fossil fuel capital represents when married to politics. In the next five to ten years, tactics for reducing the effects of global warming will be pivotal in what kind of planet we can expect for ours and future generations. It is important for us to create an awareness around this topic and push for more impactful changes in our local and national government.