THIS weekend the Cop26 Climate Change conference takes place in Glasgow.
‘Cop’ stands for Conference of the Parties. It’s called Cop26 because it is the 26th such event and will be attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in 1994.
There was no summit last year, due to Covid, and this year’s event runs from October 31st until November 12th, hosted by the UK and Italy. It is appropriate that it kicks off on Hallowe’en night, because the world is certainly in a scary place right now.
Every year brings more broken records, for heat, for floods, for forest fires, for melting ice, and the extinction of various species of wildlife.
The speed at which Planet Earth is changing is speeding up in itself. Every prediction for temperature changes, for the greening of the ice caps, for rising oceans, has had to be revised upwards in recent years.
This year’s summit is, without doubt, the most important yet.
It comes at a time when the world’s nations are bringing forward their own measures for dealing with the crisis, and just days after our own carbon budgets were published here in Ireland.
This is the first time that Ireland has set limits on greenhouse gas emissions for set periods of time.
The budgets, announced earlier this week, are part of a roadmap of actions that are set out in the Climate Action Act, which was signed into law in July. The Act commits Ireland to reach a legally-binding target of net-zero emissions no later than 2050, and a cut of 51% by 2030, compared to 2018 levels.
This week Minister Eamon Ryan hinted that the ‘journey’ to ‘net zero’, which commits us to the transition to a ‘climate resilient, biodiversity rich, environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy’ won’t be easy.
‘Every sector of the economy will need to play its part,’ he said. ‘There will be different targets for each sector, based on their respective starting points and the relative difficulty, cost, speed and benefits of reducing emissions.’
There is no doubt that certain sectors of the economy are feeling more put-upon than others by these commitments. The farming sector, the motor industry, transport in general and fuel suppliers all feel they are having fingers pointed at them, but the real truth is that every one of us will be asked to step up to the mark.
As this weekend’s conference will no doubt hear, the time for talking is long over. Greta Thunberg’s speech earlier this year at the Youth4Climate summit, dubbed the ‘blah, blah, blah’ speech – in which she mocked the world’s governments and big corporates – summed up what many of us were thinking.
There have been many empty platitudes expressed in recent years about ‘carbon zero’ and lowering emissions – but now it’s time for action. If we allow the noise generated by certain sectors to drown out the urgency of the situation we are facing, the record-breaking data on temperature and Armageddon-type disasters will continue to be surpassed.
We cannot let individual gripes distract us from the massive task at hand.
And this week’s announcement by Australia that its ‘carbon zero’ plan would not be legislated for, nor would it include any wind down in fossil fuel production, sent a shiver around the world.
CNN declared Australia ‘the rich world’s weakest link’ in the battle against climate change.
There will be fears, now, that Australia’s arrogance will garner support from other nations who are already reluctant to pursue a low emissions strategy. But such dangerous moves are not just a threat to the planet, but to the future of humanity itself.
As Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.’
Ironically, if we don’t act now, and take on board that effort, pain and difficulty, we won’t have any world to worry about.