A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Can COP26 deal with the issue of the Climate Wall?

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 Nov) – As we go to press, 120 world leaders and 25,000 delegates coming from 200 countries have converged in the Scottish city of Glasgow in the United Kingdom to join in the deliberations of the 2021 Climate Summit – known as the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) – which is scheduled until November 12. Notable absentees are Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The host, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was quoted in the press as the Conference was set to start that “this is the moment of truth for all countries in the world.” And at the G20 Summit in Rome, no less than Prince Charles told the leaders that when they would have convened at COP26, they could no longer ignore “the despairing voices of the youth of the world!”

In the past three days, since COP26 opened, the major networks have gotten the youth all over the world to voice out what they hope would be achieved at this historical Conference. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental advocate has arrived in Glasgow, along with thousands of other ordinary Europeans, some of whom walked for days to reach this city in order to express their expectations of what decisions should be made.

The main goal of COP26 is to keep global temperature from rising to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Letting temperatures to go any higher would threaten the survival of the planet and humanity. The scientists and the UN have warned world leaders that unless they manage to work together to reach this goal, the world will face more disasters due to climate change. This summer alone, countries from Africa to Europe to North America suffered droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, floods, landslides and storm surges.

This means that the world’s leaders should exert a lot more political will both in curbing the production of fossil fuels as well as shifting to green ecology in terms of alternatives like solar and air power. The worst polluters of the world – the rich countries of North America, Europe, Russia and China – have been benefitting from fossil fuel production. It is a known fact that seven-eighths of emissions attributed to carbon producers is from use of their products: gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, natural gas, and coal. And one-eighth from extracting, refining, and delivering finished fuels.

Thus the leaders will need to confront the fossil fuel producers. Just the 20 top companies comprising this group collectively produced the fuels that led to 480 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane (GtCO2e) being emitted from 1965 to 2017. This amounts to 35% of all global fossil fuel emissions in that time (1.35 trillion tCO2e). These include: Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia), Chevron (USA), Gazprom (Russia), National Iranian Oil Co. (Iran), ExxonMobil (USA), BP (UK), Royal Dutch Shell (The Netherlands), Coal India, PEMEX (Mexico), Petro China, Total SA (France) and BHP Billiton (Australia).

The reason why these companies have been huge dollar-earners is because they have benefited for decades from hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies incentivizing fossil fuel development, as well as regulatory preferences such as lax pollution controls, favorable leasing for resource extraction on public lands, and other taxpayer-funded costs, such as military protection for shipping lanes. Banks have also been in complicit with these corporate firms backed up by State apparatuses.

The sad fact that humanity has to face squarely is that only 1% of the world has hugely benefited from these arrangements – heads of corporate firms, bank executives and top government officials. Their accountability is so huge compared to the fact that all other 50 poor countries bear the greatest burden of climate change.

What are the ecological advocates’ expectations of COP26? Walk the talk of reducing the global temperature to as low as 1.5C. Start to strictly cut down on pollution, especially the use of coal. This will be hardest to implement in China, as presently they are mainly relying on coal for their energy needs, considering their need to fuel their industrial revolution. Discipline the corporations and the banks to curb their fossil fuel productions and invest more in alternative and renewable sources of energy.

And keep their promise to raise US$100 billion a year to be apportioned to poor countries heavily burdened with the impact of climate change so they can find ways to help curb pollution and emission of greenhouse gas in whatever way they could (e.g., reforest their depleted forests, decentralize urbanized areas) and dealing with the impact of disasters. After all, these countries that have contributed less to the gas emissions suffer most the consequences of climate change, although lately, highly developed countries have had their share of climate catastrophes.

Does the world – as led by the industrialized developed countries of the North – possess the political will to face the truth that the entire humanity is bound for a dystopian future unless right now at Glasgow they can collectively respond to the urgent ecological challenge? The voices of the despairing youth is being heard today across the various media platforms as this Conference is in progress. Only time will tell if our leaders are listening intently! If not, they will be blamed by future generations for their failure to walk the talk while there is still time!

(Next Article will be on The Climate Wall.)

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books and is a recipient of various awards.]