Words hold little weight unless they are reflected in actions, and in the wake of the second and final week of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, I am hoping that the conversations held there can go beyond words to create lasting positive change on our environment. Greta Thunberg’s famous three-word phrase, “blah, blah, blah”, is essentially what these conversations amount to – until, that is, they turn into actions to create a new path for our planet. This article will focus on who needs to be at the forefront of these conversations and what some of these conversations should entail to ensure that future policies and actions are effective.
The discussions at the climate summit will, hopefully, lead to visible change decades from now. Federal minister Malik Amin Aslam, who also acts as special assistance on climate in Pakistan, raised a significant point that the summit is “talking about 2060, 2070 and none of these [decision-makers] [are] going to be around.” This is an important observation, illuminating the lack of young voices at the table during these conversations that will affect not the older generations but youth who will see the actions played out for better or for worse.
The underreporting of emissions is a major problem I hope will be discussed at COP26. The Washington Post claims that nations are neglecting to accurately report the amount of greenhouse gases they emit, with gaps ranging from 8.5 to 13.3 billion tons annually. The Washington Post also reports that some nations are subtracting from their annual emissions the carbon that is absorbed by land which can make it appear as though they have reached net-zero emissions when they are not. An underreporting of emissions is extremely concerning, implying environmental degradation at rates higher than we originally estimated. Additionally, if these measurements are incorrect, the conversations at Glasgow surrounding how much nations need to cut their emissions – and how long we have before the global temperature rises to dangerous levels – are then invalid and unhelpful. Nations may be able to cheat the conference by misrepresenting their data, but they cannot cheat the planet. Not only should the summit address how to standardize data so that all nations measure their emissions in the same way, but conversation should also be used to outline real consequences for nations who knowingly underreport their emissions.
Another important conversation should be held surrounding the future of cars, specifically those with combustion engines. The Wall Street Journal said that “the world’s top car-making nations, such as China, Japan, the U.S., Germany, France and South Korea, all declined to sign” on to phase out combustion engines by 2040 in order to reduce carbon emissions. There should be more discussion on how to get these industry-leading nations on board with a shift to EVs that aid in reducing carbon emissions.
Additionally, financial support to developing nations should be a central concern of the summit. The Washington Post found this topic to be entirely missing from the “priority list” sent to negotiators. The Post highlights the part of the Paris Agreement that has rich nations giving over $100 billion per year to poorer nations, noting that this segment has been neglected in the past. It is imminently important for developing nations to receive funds dedicated to repairing communities that have been particularly affected by the climate crisis, especially when the effects are a result of actions from richer nations.
As of right now, Earth is the only planet we have. A planet that has given us so much only to endure irreversible destruction at the hands of greed and existential power struggles. This narrative has been propelled for many years now, but again, this is only a narrative. It is the responsibility of us as individuals and the major leaders at the climate summit to redirect the narrative and back it up with effective policies and regulations, with tangible actions and real consequences for those who opt out or renege on their promises.