World leaders asked to ‘save humanity’ at climate summit

Published November 2, 2021
David Attenborough, an expert on natural history, speaks at the opening session of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow. Mr Attenborough is known for writing and presenting, in collaboration with the BBC, a documentary series which formed the Life collection — a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.—AP
David Attenborough, an expert on natural history, speaks at the opening session of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow. Mr Attenborough is known for writing and presenting, in collaboration with the BBC, a documentary series which formed the Life collection — a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.—AP

GLASGOW: World leaders must act to “save humanity”, UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday as they met for the historic COP26 climate summit with code-red warnings from scientists ringing in their ears.

More than 120 heads of state and government are gathering in Glasgow for a two-day summit at the start of the UN’s COP26 conference, which organisers say is crucial for charting humanity’s path away from catastrophic global warming.

“It’s one minute to midnight... and we need to act now,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said to start proceedings on an at-times chaotic opening day.

COP26 is being billed as vital for the continued viability of the Paris Agree­ment, which countries signed in 2015 by promising to limit global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius, and to work for a safer 1.5C cap.

More than 120 heads of state and government gather in Glasgow for two-day summit

With a little over 1C of warming since the Industrial Revolution, Earth is being battered by ever more extreme heatwaves, flooding and tropical storms supercharged by rising seas.

US President Joe Biden, addressing delegates, said that the current age of climate disaster was “an inflection point in world history”.

Pressure is on governments to redouble their emissions-cutting commitments to bring them in line with the Paris goals, and to stump up long-promised cash to help developing nations green their grids and protect themselves against future disasters.

“It’s time to say: enough,” Guterres said.

“Enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.”

Johnson spoke of the “uncontainable” public anger if the conference falls flat.

Echoing 18-year-old climate campaigner Greta Thunberg — who is in Glasgow with thousands of other protesters — he urged the summit against indulging in “blah blah blah”.

If the leaders “fluff our lines or miss our cue”, generations as-yet unborn “will not forgive us”, the prime minister said.

“They will know that Glasgow was the historic turning point when history failed to turn.”

No Xi, Putin

The G20 including China, India and Western nations committed on Sunday to the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

They also agreed to end funding for new coal plants abroad without carbon capturing technology by the end of 2021. But the precise pathway to 1.5C was left largely undefined.

Preparations for the high-level summit had been dampened by a number of high-profile no shows.

Both Chinese President Xi Jinping — who has not left his country during the Covid-19 pandemic — and Russia’s Vladimir Putin will not be in Glasgow.

And Monday saw Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancel his app­ea­rance, for unspecified reasons.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2021

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