Uniting The World to Tackle Climate Change
From 31 October to 12 November, the United Kingdom (UK) will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. This Conference is bringing together governments, businesses and civil society to inspire action on climate change, perhaps the single most important issue of this generation.
The primary goal of COP26 is to get closer to fulfilling promises that nations made six years ago at COP21 in Paris. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to collectively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the planet from heating up by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with pre-industrial times. Many wealthy countries also pledged large amounts of aid to poorer nations to assist them in coping with climate change and to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
Both with respect to reducing emissions and financing green schemes in poorer countries, The Economist argues that the world is coming up short. This might make for rather frosty proceedings in Glasgow. However, especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the cost of falling short is likely to be counted in loss of lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.
Recently, the Barbados based Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) warned Caribbean countries to be prepared for high flooding and landslides until January next year. In its most recent publication, CariCOF noted that for the three months, November 2021 to January 2022, “La Niña conditions are in place”. La Niña conditions refer to cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that impact global weather patterns. It is the sister of El Niño which is defined as the unusual warming of surface waters.
On account of La Niña, CariCOF states that there is high flooding, flash flood, landslide, rockfall and soil erosion potential across much of the Caribbean until December 2021. Meanwhile, the transition into the dry season is likely to bring frequent, short dry spells which will invariably affect the agricultural sector.
As leaders, diplomats, journalists, activists and business executives gather in Glasgow to engage in important negotiations on climate change, real battles are also being fought by those of us on the frontline of the fight against climate change. Unfortunately, sea level rise, landslides, floods and more frequent and extreme weather events are now part of the daily lived reality of millions of people around the world.
How do we move forward? For starters, rich countries would need to come good on their promises of assistance to help poorer countries to cope with climate change. However, apart from using moral suasion, there is little that poorer countries can do to nudge their wealthy counterparts. This is so, notwithstanding the fact that wealthy countries are the ones contributing most to the problem of climate change.
As earth appears to be on the brink of a climate catastrophe, wealthy individuals and countries are already exploring options to colonise other planets. Recently, billionaires from the United States and the UK appeared to be in a race to space, having spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make it possible for civilians to travel to space. Recently, I also listened to an interview where an American entrepreneur was speaking about developing liveable conditions on Mars to at a minimum, allow for industrial activity to take place there.
Poor countries and poor people do not have the luxury of space travel or another planet to go to should we make earth too hostile a place to live. It is for this reason that firm commitments at COP26 to reduce emissions and assist poorer countries with green transition are critical. As ordinary citizens, we also have a role to play by taking simple measures such as conserving electricity at home, reducing and ultimately eliminating the use of plastics and disposing of garbage properly, just to name a few.
Joel K Richards is a Vincentian national living and working in Europe in the field of international trade and development.
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