World: Why COP26 leaves me furious -- and searching for hope (Opinion)

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Delta — Galápagos turtles take on Chinese fishing fleet

  Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Delta — Galápagos turtles take on Chinese fishing fleet Today is Friday. Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. The governments of Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica are launching a unified marine corridor aimed at protecting Galápagos wildlife from the threat of massive Chinese fishing fleets, The Wall Street Journal reported. The goal is to prohibit industrial fishing in a stretch of ocean twice the size of Arizona, say the governments, who have accused Chinese boats of plundering fishing stocks.

The end of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow — called COP26 — leaves many of those of us who care about the future of humanity both furious and searching for hope.

Young protestors attend the Fridays For Future COP26 Scotland March on November 5, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. © Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images Young protestors attend the Fridays For Future COP26 Scotland March on November 5, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Still, it's easier to lean in the direction of cynicism. The UN has been holding these annual meetings since the mid-1990s. For most of that time, the world's diplomats have engaged in a morbid game of "oh, we'll get to that next year." It continued this year, with nearly 200 nations literally agreeing to get the gang back together in 2022 to re-up commitments to rein in the fossil fuel pollution scorching the planet and putting all of us in danger.

COP26 is looking like a historic failure after the world's biggest polluters snubbed the summit and even rich nations failed to deliver

  COP26 is looking like a historic failure after the world's biggest polluters snubbed the summit and even rich nations failed to deliver Without a big turnaround in the progress of the COP26 summit on climate change, it looks likely to be judged as a historic failure. The reluctance of countries including China to sign up to new targets risks making the summit a failure. After its pivotal opening, the COP26 climate conference in Scotland is due to continue its work without the world leaders who attended the first two days. Although it is not over, the direction has been set, and the chance for the most decisive action has likely departed with the various presidents, chancellors and prime ministers.

If this were the first global summit on the climate crisis: sure. Take your time, think on it a bit. As things stand, we've known for decades heat-trapping pollution poses an existential threat to humanity, and already is contributing to worsening heat waves, wildfires and hurricanes. We've endured years of pronouncements, as in Glasgow, that this is the "last, best" chance to save the Earth from the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of warming.

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: John Sutter © Provided by CNN John Sutter

Doing anything "next year" shows numbness to the plight of future generations. Hence, activist Greta Thunberg's rational assertion COP26 was a bunch of "blah, blah, blah."

Add to that slow-moving train wreck the fact the diplomats this year couldn't agree to a phasing out of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. The final language in the agreement at COP26 called for the world to "phase down" coal starting in 2026.

So many fossil fuel industry reps went to COP26 that they outnumber the delegates from any single country

  So many fossil fuel industry reps went to COP26 that they outnumber the delegates from any single country 503 fossil fuel lobbyists attended the event, outnumbering the biggest national group - the the 479 people sent by Brazil. One of the most prominent presences was the International Emissions Trading Association, which took 103 delegates, including three from the oil giant BP, Global Witness said.Representatives from more than 100 fossil fuel companies were present at COP26, Global Witness said, as well as 30 trade associations.

So, you know, five "next-years" from now.

It's bleak.

The glacial pace of politics doesn't match the urgency of what the atmosphere is telling us. Partway through the Glasgow summit, the non-partisan group Climate Action Tracker issued a report finding current global policies put the Earth on track for 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century. That would blow well past the global target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement of holding warming well short of 2 degrees, and hopefully to 1.5 Celsius.

Despite the grand pronouncements in Glasgow, "policy implementation on the ground is advancing at a snail's pace," according to the report. Nations continue to pledge the right thing — that they'll reach "net-zero" emissions (meaning, basically: no fossil fuels) by 2050. Yet, "no single country that we analyze has sufficient short-term policies in place to put itself on track."

COP26 draft deal calls on countries to boost emissions cuts by end of 2022. Here's what else is in it

  COP26 draft deal calls on countries to boost emissions cuts by end of 2022. Here's what else is in it A draft of the Glasgow Agreement published on Wednesday includes language that says the world should be aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and acknowledges the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis, a first for the annual COP meeting.A draft of the Glasgow Agreement published on Wednesday includes language that says the world should be aiming to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and acknowledges the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis, a first for the annual Conference of the Parties on climate. If the draft is agreed in current form, it could pave the way for deeper emissions cuts by the end of next year.

Each fraction of a degree of warming destabilizes important planetary systems, making heatwaves and hurricanes more intense, raising sea levels and threatening biodiversity.

And we've already warmed the planet about 1.1 degrees, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

That's a lot to take in, I know. And yet, it's also untrue to say world leaders accomplished nothing with the Glasgow pact.

Revisiting plans to cut emissions next year is better than waiting until 2025, as was initially planned. The United States and China issued a joint statement calling for swifter action, which is not nothing considering the diplomatic tensions between them. Many countries agreed to cut methane emissions, which is a potent greenhouse gas, and to end deforestation by 2030, which -- if it happens -- would be a major win for the atmosphere, given that tropical forests pluck CO2 from the atmosphere, and for biodiversity, given the global extinction crisis.

Young people showed up in Scotland in droves and they demanded a livable future. You can't say anymore that the world is unaware of this crisis; outrage is becoming widespread.

Prove us wrong, activist tells leaders at UN climate talks

  Prove us wrong, activist tells leaders at UN climate talks GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — A Ugandan activist channeled the fears of many young people and vulnerable countries at Thursday's U.N. climate talks in Glasgow that world leaders won't take the action needed to prevent potentially lethal levels of global warming. “The latest available science tells us that in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we must reduce global CO2 emissions by somewhere between 7% to 11% this year, and next year, and every year after year, until we get to zero,” Vanessa Nakate told business and political leaders in an impassioned speech at the conference.

Lastly, you could argue any name-drop of coal in the agreement text is progress given that fossil fuels have been omitted from all previous iterations of these climate accords.

It's a yes-and situation — infuriatingly so.

Yes, the world is still speeding down an apocalyptic highway — a "code red" situation, as the UN's secretary general put it. Yes, as Nicholas Kusnetz from Inside Climate News argued, the oil and gas industry "still holds its grip on the world's economic and political systems." Yes, this is the ultimate example of a global-commons problem: Delegates continue to represent their own short-term national interests, and no one votes on behalf of the future of humanity.

Yet, this clumsy system remains our best hope for survival. The process is moving far, far too slowly, but it is moving. And it would be disastrous to give up hope.

Ahead of the meeting in Scotland, the artist Jenny Holzer projected the words "IF NOT NOW THEN WHEN" on a tower at the Tate Modern in London. The letters scrolled upward, toward the clouds, and vanished just as they appeared to connect with the sky. That's perhaps the key question for global action on the climate crisis.

If not now, then when? The answer, sadly, as always, appears to be next year.

COP26 was a cop-out — here's why it gets a failing grade .
When you look underneath the announcements and self-congratulation, the Glasgow conference gets a poor grade — a C-minus at best — far below what is required if we are to secure the planet’s livability and halt our march towards a dystopian hot-house world. The ambition and success of the conference were limited by who was there, who was not and what was possible domestically. Some leaders were not in the room at the outset. Neither President Xi Jinping nor President Vladimir Putin attended, sending the signal that they were not ready to do a new deal and did not feel the need to participate.

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