London climate change meet on December 12 set to flop

Platitudes & promises instead of prevention of pollution

Environment

October 1, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

London climate change meet on December 12 set to flop

London has seen numerous demonstrations calling for urgent action to save the earth. Will their calls be heard during December 12 meet?

Climate change meeting called by United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on December 12 is likely to fail as have most of climate change meetings so far.

2020 was supposed to have been a crucial milestone in the battle to save the climate. But like a familiar story, it is pretty much certain to be yet another washout. Five years ago, the famed meeting in Paris in December 2015 was also headed towards an embarrassing collapse. But in a face-saving deal, the participating governments agreed that each member would set its own targets to be enshrined in the Paris Agreement and that these targets would be reviewed in 2020 so as to ensure that the global temperature rise is limited to less than 1.5°C.

This was to be the key issue to be discussed at the Cop26 meeting that was supposed to have been held at Glasgow in November. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across large parts of the world that meeting has now been postponed to 2021. The meeting in London, to be jointly hosted by the United Nations and the British government, is supposed to keep the pressure on global leaders to focus on climate change.

Despite all evidence of rapidly rising global warming and climate change from across the globe, the political and business leaders seem to have stayed in their cocoon, either denying that global warming is happening or that their country or company is responsible for it. For well over a decade, the world has seen dozens of opportunities to take united and concerted action to curb carbon emissions and get a grip over this critical issue slip by.

Even Paris Agreement was a thinly veiled attempt to paper over the sharp differences that separated the few countries and groups which wanted to tackle the issue head on and a very large majority of global leaders who were too content to point fingers at others for not doing enough to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

Since then, so far, at every single milestone, the global leaders have failed to fulfill their commitments. One stark example is the Cop24 in Katowice in November 2018 when the nations failed even to agree on a report by world’s most respected scientists about the urgency of taking steps to protect the planet.

There is little evidence that even today either governments or businesses have woken up to the catastrophic scenario facing the Earth. One evidence is the clear opportunity lost by every country in resetting its environment protection policies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Three months of lockdowns all over the world had seen a rapid and surprising restoration of air and water as the pollution levels dipped dramatically, restoring long-polluted sites to their former pristine selves.

This was a god-sent opportunity for the governments to take advantage of low or no pollution levels to ensure that the world does not get back to its dirty old ways. Unfortunately, within weeks of easing lockdowns in various nations, the gains of the lockdown were squandered away. In June, barely a fortnight after France ended the lockdown in place since March, red alert was raised over air pollution in Paris. Same was the story with many other parts of Europe.

While Europe was battling automobile pollution, forest fires were once again flaring in different countries, from Siberia to Canada and California. This year has seen the worst forest fires in many countries. In Siberia, over 20 million hectares of forests, an area bigger than Greece, have been destroyed, while Canada and California, too, have witnessed unprecedented blazes.

Several environmental organisations had exhorted political and business leaders to use the lockdowns, tragic as they may have been, as an opportunity to reset our lifestyle, the way we run our companies and manage our economies. They said that it was an ideal occasion to go as green as possible in all our activities – industry, transport, agriculture or leisure. And as each government opened its war chests to help business, there were numerous appeals made by environmental activists that the governments ought to put strict conditions and terms, linking the aid of trillions of dollars with drastic cut in emissions and to have clear and benchmarked shift towards a green economy.

Unfortunately, none of the government aid was tied to forcing companies adopt greener practices. No political leader or business magnate have thought of investing the bailout in a way not only to make their companies financially strong, but also to make their businesses sustainable by cutting their carbon emissions and pollution level. Despite all the cautions and red alerts raised across the globe, pollution levels as well as global warming and climate change have continued to rise sharply.

There is little hope that in the next two months anything will change. The leaders have an even better excuse than ever that they are dealing with the worst performance of their economies for decades or even ever seen in the history, and hence their priority is to revive businesses rather than worry about reviving the planet. As has been human wanton since the Creation, quickfix solutions are preferred to long-haul ones even if the rapid solutions give rise to even bigger problems later on.

Expect the London Climate Meeting on December 12 to produce nothing more than some more hot air of platitudes and promises.

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