Countries in last chance saloon in Glasgow

A view of the Devegecidi Dam Lake, which faces drought due to the climate change, in Diyarbakir, Turkey on Sept 21, 2021. (PHOTO / IC)

With their increasing frequency and severity, devastating natural disasters caused by extreme weather are driving home the reality that the impacts of climate change are real, dangerous and allow for no more foot-dragging.

The COP26 climate summit, in session now in Glasgow, as the most important United Nations climate summit since the 2015 Paris Agreement entered its implementation stage, is deemed as the "last best chance" for countries to set a sensible climate course. However, unless the more than 200 participating countries demonstrate due solidarity in Glasgow and pledge dramatic actions, it will be difficult for the high-profile meeting to become the "real turning point" UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for it to be.

The Glasgow summit carries hopes that countries will follow through on the Paris consensus to limit greenhouse gas emissions so as to restrict the global temperature rise to 1.5 C above preindustrial levels.

Cutting carbon emissions of up to 55 percent by 2050 might be necessary to reach that goal, according to the UN. Yet the pledges countries had made by the end of 2020 fall well short of that, with estimated temperatures likely to rise above 2 degrees. UN estimates even suggest we are already on course for a likely 2.7-degree rise.

The world's major economies, which are the leading emitters, have great responsibilities on their shoulders when it comes to containing climate change. They have to take the lead in their commitments to reduce emissions. Yet people have good reasons to worry that what is required will not be forthcoming. After all, there is no sign countries are ready to put their previous divergences aside and turn Glasgow into a serious new starting point for global solidarity, but instead every sign that it will see the usual passing of the buck.

The ideas of fairness, common but differentiated responsibilities and consideration of individual countries' capabilities, which are widely accepted as essential to meaningful international climate cooperation, have gained little traction in developed countries. The recent changes in relations between major countries only add new uncertainties to the coordination and cooperation between major carbon-emitting nations.

Not to mention the pandemic is another disruptive factor. The heavy economic losses that it has inflicted on nearly all economies have greatly distracted countries from climate change when they are still trying to spur domestic economic recoveries. The developed nations have failed to honor their promises about climate financing for developing countries. Glasgow is a last chance for them to get serious about such commitments and act to not only reduce their own emissions, but also help developing nations reduce theirs. The onslaught of the virus will no doubt be a stumbling block. However, the consequences will be disastrous if it becomes an excuse for inaction on climate change.

China remains steadfast on the pledge that its carbon emissions will peak before 2030 and it will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Hopefully it won't be alone in holding to its pledges.