Nervous negotiators grasp at straws: Will we ever save the planet?

Rosina Butcher, Diss High School

Thursday 11th November 2021

As the penultimate day of COP26 proceedings comes to a close, time is wearing thin, and pressure is mounting for a major agreement. Today's topic was ‘regions, cities and the built environment'. This led to discussions surrounding cities and ways to facilitate nature’s recovery in urban environments, like the Wildlife Trusts’ ‘Wild belt’ campaign, which has an objective of a new planning designation that allows Local Authorities to ‘zone’ urban areas and create new spaces and opportunities that provide ‘nature-based solutions’ to help mitigate climate change, and also accommodate it and its effects. 

A high-level outcome of day 10 was the Zero-Emission Vehicles Transition Council Action Plan for 2022. The transition to ZEV is a crucial step towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and this was agreed on by 30 countries. However, worryingly, the US and China were absent from the agreement, despite the two being the world’s worst offenders for emissions. Motor giants Toyota and Volkswagen were also missing from the pledges. This is a huge let-down and yet another demonstration of the negligence of developed countries and huge conglomerates towards fighting climate change, something they are primarily responsible for. These carbon giants need to step up and account for the damage to the Earth they have caused. Step one: show up.

The UK government has also launched a multi-million Urban Climate Action program - (UCAP) - aiming to support cities across Asia, Latin America and Africa on their transitions towards a more sustainable future and achieving net-zero. With a backing of £27.5m that will total £3bn by 2025, they intend to build climate-smart buildings and commit to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement in these areas. 

As a young person, I feel disappointed and concerned by the overall decisions, or lack of it thereof, made at this year's COP. There have been some small victories and pushes for progress but yet again it feels as if there is just not enough effort being made. This is upsetting because there are highly influential people involved in negotiations that have the resources to make change happen but refuse to use their power for the good of the planet. I also find it deeply angering to see time and time again Western nations, who are in a much better position to contribute, fail to deliver the funding needed to support the changes they promote to less-developed nations. Over one-third of the Earth’s population live within 60 miles of the sea. Three billion depend on it for their income. As the Arctic ice melts and the global sea levels rise, these people in developing countries will suffer. They will lose their incomes, homes, and maybe even their lives. They are the forgotten sufferers of climate change who face the brunt of Western carelessness and we owe it to them to make a difference.

I wholeheartedly believe that the younger generation holds the key to ending climate change and that they need to be given voices now so they can be the ones to build the future that they will have to live with. It’s entirely absurd that the key players who won’t have to live with the consequences of climate change are the people who make the decisions. The time to act is now, and with the deadline to reach net-zero being under seven years away there is not a second to waste. We risk mass extinction, extreme weather events, higher sea levels and great economic losses if we fail to keep the Earth’s temperature under a 1.5-degree rise. The future of billions hangs in the balance and we can’t turn back the clock. If we don’t fight for the longevity of planet Earth, the future will cease to exist.

References and sources:


BBC News website





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