Can COP26 be saved at the 11th hour of the 11th day?

Gabriella Roe, St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls

Thursday 11th November 2021

Today started off with a bang, as Olafur Eliasson - an Icelandic and Danish artist known for his installations and sculptures - projected his artwork on the venue (which was a piece depicting childrens’ concerns about climate change), a true symbol of today’s theme - built environment - where national, regional and city level leaders will be “Building a better world Together”. This is a big day for the building industry, with 44 businesses signing up to the whole-life-carbon requirements of its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment .Yet the proceedings of the day speak otherwise to working to build a better world, as the leader's words do not match their actions. Scientists warn that action from policymakers is still not good enough, as in the next two years “we have got to cut emissions rapidly”. With only a day to go, Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate similarly expressed her disappointment with the proceedings. “We are drowning in promises. Promises will not stop the suffering of people '' she addressed at a high level COP26 event today. Yesterday’s surprising US-China deal, (promising to limit warming to 1.5°C) was slightly dampened by UN Secretary General, António Guerterres, as he called to end trillions of subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry, and later took to Twitter, reporting on a “General lack of ambition”. And the hypocrisy of the event could not be overlooked, as behind the facade of greenwashing, the EU gave its backing to 30 gas projects worth $13 billion, while protesters were gluing themselves to the streets in desperation for change, five more being arrested today. The Scottish minister, Nicola Sturgeon was similarly criticised for not entering the new climate alliance (called Beyond Oil and Gas - an alliance aiming to conduct an oil and gas phase out) despite her shared photos with Greta Thunberg and continued climate rhetoric. The UK similarly did not enter this alliance, even though the country at home has been condemned for failing to rule out a large new oilfield, Cambo, off the Shetland Islands. This is one of the deepest fields ever to be discovered in Northern Europe, and the West Hercules drilling rig is going to be used to drill the appraisal well.

As the day draws to a close, murmurs of the unlikelihood of COP26 actually finishing on Friday are being spread, with plenty of journalists suggesting it will “drag on until Saturday”, as the draft text agreement was criticised by the COP president, Alok Sharma. At the same time, new scientific research suggests that pledges announced about coal, methane, deforestation and transport could nudge the world 9% closer to keeping on heating at 1.5°C, is still not enough to avert a climate catastrophe.

COP26 was an event which I was so excited for. Finally, a conference as important as the Paris agreement where countries could sort out the current dismal state of the world. Yet, the proceedings show the exact opposite.

The people living in poverty due to the selfish actions of the elite have been excluded, meanwhile fossil fuel representatives given a voice to spread their empty greenwashing ideologies, the top 1% given private jets to arrive in comfort - causing the equivalent of 1,600 Glasgow resident’s yearly CO2 emissions to be released - only to essentially make empty promises, which they are already turning their backs on. The fact that even if world leaders do follow through on their pledge to limit warning to 1.5°C it still won’t be enough to avoid the horrors of a climate catastrophe. New studies continue to underline the risk, with one from the Hadley Centre suggesting that 1 billion people would be at risk of extreme heat exposure if global warming reached 2°C. This makes it difficult to not be pessimistic about the future for me, but also those who are far less fortunate - those who will have to flee because of the unbearable weather, those who will lose traditions and homes, held by their ancestors for millennia and the children of tomorrow who will have a crisis too late to solve in their hands. It’s the second to last day, and the fact that there has been a “general lack of ambition” is appalling. However, there’s still hope for tomorrow and still a chance for the final text agreement to improve, because there are people who will do everything they can to hold politicians and leaders to their words. 






Read the other reports from our budding journalists to hear the important views from young people on all things COP26.


Copyright © 2021 | University of East Anglia