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COP26: World leaders in Glasgow for ‘Last, Best Hope’ climate summit

By Ngozi Egenuka with agency report
02 November 2021   |   5:13 am
More than 120 world leaders met in Glasgow, Scotland, yesterday in a “last, best hope” to tackle the climate crisis and avert a looming global disaster.

Journalists listen to a live transmission of a speech by Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the opening ceremony of the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow on November 1, 2021. – More than 120 world leaders meet in Glasgow in a “last, best hope” to tackle the climate crisis and avert a looming global disaster. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

India promises net zero emissions by 2070, marks unprecedented climate pledge

More than 120 world leaders met in Glasgow, Scotland, yesterday in a “last, best hope” to tackle the climate crisis and avert a looming global disaster.

“It’s one minute to midnight and we need to act now,” British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was due to tell them, according to extracts from his speech.

“If we don’t get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow.” Observers had hoped a weekend meeting in Rome of leaders of the G20 nations, which between them emit nearly 80 per cent of global carbon emissions, would give a strong impetus to the Glasgow COP26 summit, which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

The G20 major economies committed on Sunday to the key goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious target of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

They also agreed to end funding for new unabated coal plants abroad, those whose emissions have not gone through any filtering process, by the end of 2021.

But this did not convince non- governmental organisations, the British prime minister, or the United Nations.

“While I welcome the G20’s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled, but at least they are not buried,” UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said on Twitter.

“We’ve inched forward (at the G20). We’ve put ourselves in a reasonable position for COP in Glasgow but it’s going to be very difficult in the next few days,” Johnson said Sunday, before warning: “If Glasgow fails, then the whole thing fails.”

The Glasgow gathering, which runs until November 12, comes as an accelerating onslaught of extreme weather events across the world underscores the devastating impacts of climate change from 150 years of burning fossil fuels.

The current commitments of the signatories of the Paris agreement, if they were followed, would still lead to a “catastrophic” warming of 2.7 Celsius, according to the UN.

COP26 marks the “last, best hope to keep 1.5C in reach”, summit president Alok Sharma said as he opened the meeting on Sunday.

“If we act now and we act together, we can protect our precious planet,” he said. Climate advocacy groups expressed disappointment at the statement released at the end of the G20 summit.

“These so-called leaders need to do better. They have another shot at this: starting tomorrow,” said Namrata Chowdhary from the NGO 350.org.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has made a vow to achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2070. He also added that by 2030, India would reduce the carbon intensity for its economy by 45 per cent.

He noted that India would increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500GW by 2030, fulfil 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030 and by 2030, will reduce its total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes.

“Today the entire world acknowledges that India is the only big economy in the world that has delivered in letter and spirit to its Paris commitments,” he said.

He says India has “spared no efforts in fulfilling its duty” to combating climate change. India is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US and the EU.

Renowned natural history broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, in an emotional speech, told leaders “the world is looking to you”.
U.S. President Biden was one of the last to arrive after flying in to Edinburgh, he told the conference that “none of us will escape” if we “fail to seize the moment.”

Activist, Greta Thunberg told youth protesters outside the venue that politicians were pretending to take the climate crisis seriously.

“Inside COP there are just politicians and people in power pretending to take our future seriously, pretending to take the presence seriously of the people who are being affected already today by the climate crisis. Change is not going to come from inside there. That is not leadership. This is leadership.”

China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon, chose not to attend COP26 and instead sent a written statement with no new announcement.

In the statement, president Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s aim for emissions to peak in the country before 2030, and for carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2060. But he has not said how China will achieve this.