The outcome at COP26 doesn’t bode well for the future of the planet, but then again, no one remotely aware of the history of international climate talks should have expected anything but a failure at Glasgow.
As a matter of fact, given what we already know about the science of climate change (fossil fuels are the primary culprits behind global warming), and, in light of our experience with the catastrophic effects of global warming (heat waves, wildfires, floods, droughts, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, habitat loss and species extinction), COP26 must be regarded as a “monumental failure.”
Why? Because for the first time in nearly three decades the world “coal” was used in a COP climate agreement? Oder because of the pledge that deforestation will be stopped by 2030. Or could it be because world leaders agreed to end “inefficient” subsidies for fossil fuels?
At COP26 in Glasgow, hypocrisy reigned. The presence of the fossil fuel industry, which had a larger delegation than any other country, was not a problem. Most world leaders were there to protect their national economic interests and not the sustainability of the planet.
Let’s start with President Joe Biden. He argued that “there is no more time to hang back or sit on the fence,” and then sought to convince everyone present that the U.S. will “lead by example” in the fight against global warming. How? How? leasing over 80 million acres of public watersIn the Gulf of Mexico to fossil fuel firms for oil and gas extraction.
And let’s not forget his urgent plea to OPECIt was only a few months ago that oil production was increasing.
Exemplifying the power of leading by example
What about Australia, whose current government? vows to keep using and selling coalFor many decades to follow?
Countries such as China and Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil, for example, worked hard during negotiations to weaken as many COP26 pacts as possible.
Wealthy nations are the ones most responsible for the current climate crisis.
Their failure to honor their pledge of $100 billion per year in climate financing to poor countries, which are the most affected by the effects of global warming, speaks volumes about their commitment to transforming the world into a just and sustainable place. So does their position on the issue of financing for “losses and damages” at COP26, which was deliberately couched in very vague terms and was left to be addressed in future climate talks.
But that’s what international climate diplomacy amounts to in the end: governments fighting for a climate agenda that won’t harm the specific interests and needs of their own ruling classes. This is precisely why world leaders have been pushing the envelope for almost three decades when it comes time to take drastic measures to combat global climate change.
The truth is that we have made progress in the fight against climate change because of activism by individuals and a wide variety of organizations such community groups, labor organizations, non-governmental organisations, and Indigenous groups. Youth voices on climate crisis have been, naturally, the most important in raising public consciousness and building momentum towards the formation of a global movement on climate, which is our only hope of securing sustainability for all life on Earth.
Ironically, no rational and sober thinking human being could have any illusions about what the 21st century holds. It takes an inexplicably high level knowledge, combined with a heavy dose misanthropy to overlook the fact the world is facing a titanic struggle to save the planet.
It is clear that humanity has the ability to avoid a possible collapse in civilized order as it exists today. We have only one hope to save the planet’s environment from the devastating effects of global warming due to the burning of fossil fuels. Decarbonization in conjunction with natural climate solutions such as reforestation are key to making sure that humanity doesn’t get trapped in a conundrum the “the gates of hell are locked on the inside.”
There is no other option at this point. It is not yet clear in what ways technology can help solve the climate crisis in the future. We also don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if emerging technologies can help.
Also, let’s have no illusions about the global Green New Deal project. This is not a utopian fantasy, as its opponents suggest. The research, for instance, conducted by economists at the renowned Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst shows with unquestionable clarity that the implementation of the Green New Deal project will not only spare us from the worsening effects of global warming, but will also ensure sustainable development and a just transition.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that there are already many organizations working to make the Green New Deal vision a reality. For example, ReImagine Appalachia, a collection of individuals and organizations seeking to “built a sustainable 21st century Appalachia,” is restoring damaged lands and water, refashioning the electric grid, building a sustainable transportation system, reforesting the region, while at the same time promoting union rights and ensuring that workers in extractive industries remain vital elements of the workforce in the post-fossil fuel economy.
Mass organizing is key to achieving the goals set by Reimagine Appalachia. Amanda Woodrum, Senior Researcher, Policy Matters Ohio, and Co-Director, Project to ReImagine Appalachia, says ReImagine Appalachia “reaches out and engages a wide variety of stakeholders – labor, faith, enviro, racial justice, criminal justice reform advocates, local electeds and others.”
Participation from the bottom is crucial to ensuring a society transformation towards sustainability. Amanda Woodrum put it so well Truthout, this is the only way that “Appalachia stays on the climate table, otherwise it will be on the menu.”
In addition, ReImagine Appalachia appears to have developed a very effective local elected outreach strategy, which, according to Amanda Woodrum, “has secured a number of endorsements from local electeds and passed community resolutions in several communities.” Equally important, the organization has launched BLAC, the Black Appalachian Coalition, an initiative led by Black women, as Black Appalachians have been hit hardestby the downward mobility of neoliberal projects since the 1980s.
The outcomes of international climate summits are very discouraging, but the work done at the grassroots level by researchers and activists alike in the fight against humanity’s greatest existential crisis is quite inspiring.
So, yes, the struggle ahead promises to be hard and brutal, but the “general will” can always prevail in the end even under the most gruesome of circumstances if people are willing to fight for the right cause. There is no cause more sacred than saving the planet Earth.