UNCOP26 – Is Britain up to the task?

Charlie Bedwell discusses the goals of UNCOP26, to be hosted in Glasgow, and whether Britain is prepared for the challenges ahead.

In November this year, Glasgow will be hosting UNCOP26 putting Britain at the forefront of climate action. The summit aims to encourage discussions about the goals of the Paris agreement and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change with high hopes that that agreements and actions can be fast-tracked in order to address the urgency of the Climate Crisis.

Alok Sharma, president of this year’s summit, has set 4 clear goals for the UK’s UNCOP26.

  1. Governments should set net zero carbon emission goals for 2050 with clear plans for reducing them by 2030.
  2. Governments should plan for the effects that climate change will have on the population and prepare accordingly.
  3. Wealthy governments should financially support poorer governments in order for them to reduce emissions and adapt to changes caused by climate change.
  4. Civil society should be involved and contribute to these talks.
Image Credits: LNLNLN

It is hoped that by addressing pressing issues such as climate poverty and setting clear plans in order to reduce climate change by 2030, current governments will see the importance of taking action now. In the past, we have seen many promises and initiatives set up by current governments with goals set way into the future. Goals that they will not be held to as they will no longer be in power. By setting short term goals as well as long term ones, we hope to avoid the attitude of “somebody else’s problem” that has been present in governments of the past.

As we start to look forward and prepare ourselves for the future, it is also important to review the past and celebrate the changes that we have made. Britain is the fastest member of the G20 (an international forum) to decarbonise our economy since 2000 and we have cut our emissions by 40% over the last twenty years. Our commitment to future goals, such as laws and policies to reach net-zero by 2020 are also leading among major economies. We have made a good start in addressing climate change but the declaration of a climate crisis tells us that there is a lot more work to be done and when we look at our current government, there are some concerns over the legitimacy of their investment in the climate crisis.

Image Credits: cocoparisienne

Boris Johnson, famous for his straight-talking, has voiced some worrying attitudes towards climate change in the past, some of which seem to bubble to the surface even now. In 2013, he criticised humanity for its “conceit and self-love” that has led us to believe that “fate of the planet is in our hands”. In a more light-hearted criticism of climate change that took place in 2015, he went on to say, “There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong – but they don’t include global warming” and even this year he has still managed to raise red flags when stating that the government’s reasons for engaging in climate change talks are not because they are “tree-hugging, mung-bean munching, eco freaks”. His comments encompass a wide range of problems from climate change denial to propagating harmful stereotypes that if expressed on a global stage could be hugely problematic.

Unfortunately, our anxieties about the sincerity of Johnson’s climate change vows are not just a result of his “everyday man” speeches but also the actions his government takes. Recently, it was decided that the UK would cut overseas aid at a time where we are simultaneously encouraging others to aid poorer countries as they are hit by the affects of climate change. Contradictions such as these spark fears amongst climate activists who have high hopes for November’s summit.

Whilst climate change is arguably the biggest challenge that we face as a people, recent changes across the globe have the potential to steal the spotlight away from more pressing issues. Britain are distracted with Brexit and America with their new president. New laws and policies centre around these more immediate changes with climate change getting lost in the crowd.

This is an opportunity for Britain to take centre-stage in the move towards environmentally friendly action. We should be aiming to support, encourage and inspire countries across the world to step up and commit to changes intended to deal with climate change. Let’s hope that Johnson can keep his comments about “tofu-munchers” to himself this time and embrace the opportunity to make a real and meaningful change for future generations.

Charlie Bedwell is an English Masters student who is using her passion for writing to spread the green word.

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