After years of preparation, it is finally here. The UN conference of the parties or as it is more commonly known, COP26 has taken over Glasgow.
Two weeks of intense negotiations, deal brokerage and whistle stop tours of Scottish stereotypes await the delegates converging to, without hyperbole, save the planet.
With the geopolitics in mind, what should we be looking out for at COP? Since any number of outlets will be providing round-the-clock coverage, Hollicom decided to point out a few topics to seek out.
The heat is on
Under the 2015 Paris agreement, signatories committed to keeping global warming limited to “well below” 2 degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees. This means a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions soon, so that the decrease can begin.
It goes without saying that such a target requires global cooperation, but some big-name absences at COP26 makes one wonder: is such cooperation possible?
Much has been made about the notable absence of Russian Premier Vladimir Putin and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping. These men lead some of the most polluting nations on Earth, with a massive proportion of their economies still reliant on fossil fuels. If they are not around the table to have their interests baked into any Paris-style deal, it is less likely that they will be bound by the emissions targets within it.
Despite protests over his domestic policy, Indian PM Narendra Modi arrived in Glasgow over the weekend. India is the world’s 3rd largest polluter, relying heavily on fossil fuels and dirty industry. Due to this, the nation has a vested interest in limiting any emissions agreement which comes out of COP26.
At a wider level, there is also the glaring issue that the Paris agreement condones some increase in Global temperatures. Many argue that this is a fundamental failing of the agreement as it will mean creative carbon accounting by governments rather than meaningful changes to means of production. We can only hope that Glasgow addresses this issue.
Much has been made about carbon capture technology. The ability to take harmful carbon from the atmosphere and safely contain it is straight out of science fiction.
However, this space age tech runs into a very mundane roadblock: money. Put simply, carbon capture technology is ridiculously expensive. While there is no off the shelf cost to such tech, it is estimated that the bill for the capture and storage of one tone of C02 can be as much as $25-$120 per ton depending on the source. With the UK alone producing some 326.1 million tons of it in 2020, that starts to add up.
It is also a politically sensitive technology. The infrastructure for a carbon capture facility is comparable to an oil refinery or power plant. This means local politicians potentially fighting over the change to build one in their constituency to generate jobs, but it also means an equivalent economic drain on existing fossil fuel influence in the political process. Oil and Gas companies have the expertise to make carbon capture work, but a vested economic and political interest in the status quo. Glasgow could get the carbon capture futurists and oil and gas experts around the same table, so keep an eye out for it.
Indigenous Communities and The Global South
It is easy to forget that people are already losing their land and livelihoods as a result of climate change. We (rightly) worry about places like The Netherlands being underwater, but that existential threat is already a reality to communities of pacific islanders. The opening of the conference on Sunday saw a speech by India Logan-Riley who discussed the issue more eloquently. So rather than read what a European PR manager has to say, please watch the speech and hear the issue described by someone who lives in its shadow.
A famine in Madagascar is thought to be the first of its kind directly caused by climate change. It is hoped that Glasgow will provide a platform for those impacted to make their voices heard.