COP26 leaders warned of ‘doomsday’ as India vows to reduce emissions t…

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.


World leaders turned up the heat and resorted to end-of-the-world rhetoric on Monday in an attempt to bring new urgency to sputtering international climate negotiations.

But the high aspirations and apocalyptic imagery at the start of the global climate summit known as COP26 on Monday were soon met with a cold measure of reality. India’s chief minister said his country will aim to stop adding greenhouse gases to the air by 2070 — two decades after the United States and at the minimum 10 years later than China.

chief Minister Narendra Modi said the goal of reaching “net zero” by 2070 was one of five measures India, as the world’s third-biggest emitter, planned to attempt to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

In his opening address, British chief Minister Boris Johnson declared the world is strapped to a “ticking doomsday device,” likening an ever-warming Earth’s position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond — strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to work out how to defuse it by reducing the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

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Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden offered a more measured warning, in which he also apologized for his predecessor Donald Trump’s temporarily pulling the U.S. out of the  historic 2015 Paris Agreement, something Biden said put the country behind in its efforts.

“There’s no more time to sit back,”  Biden told the summit on Monday. “Every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.”

The world leaders’ summit portion of the Conference of Parties (COP), as it’s known, meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in the early 1990s, and later climate agreements.

The conference is aimed at getting agreement to curb carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed 1.1 C. Current projections based on planned emissions cuts over the next decade are for it to hit 2.7 C by the year 2100.

‘We are digging our own graves’

The gloomy observe by Britain’s leader came after leaders from the Group of 20 major economies made only modest climate commitments at their summit in Rome this weekend.

And that mood got only darker when United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres followed him.

“We are digging our own graves,” Guterres said. “Our planet is changing before our eyes — from the ocean depths to mountaintops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events.”

Johnson and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, right, greet Honduras’s President Juan Orlando Hernandez at the conference on Monday. (Alastair Grant/Reuters)

For its part, Canada will impose a hard cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector, chief Minister Justin Trudeau said, as he called on other resource-high countries to dramatically curb their own emissions.

“The science is clear — we must do more, faster,” he said during his two-minute speech at the summit. 

WATCH | Trudeau say Canada will impose a hard cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector: 

Trudeau delivers Canada’s national statement at COP26 summit

chief Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will impose a hard cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector during his remarks at COP26 summit in Glasgow. 4:59

French President Emmanuel Macron, in addition to coaxing big carbon-polluting nations to potential more stringent emission cuts, said European nations now have to shift from promises to action.

The speeches from leaders were to continue by Tuesday.

The idea is that the will do the big political give-and-take, setting out general outlines of agreement, and then have other government officials hammer out the nagging but crucial details. That’s what worked to make the historic 2015 Paris climate deal a success, former UN climate secretary Christiana Figueres told The Associated Press.

“For heads of state, it is truly a much better use of their strategic thinking,” Figueres said.

In Paris, the two identifying characteristics goals — the 1.5 C limit and net zero carbon emissions by 2050 — were produced by this leaders-first course of action, Figueres said. In the unsuccessful 2009 Copenhagen meeting, the leaders swooped in at the end.

Who’s not there

Thousands lined up in a chilly wind in Glasgow on Monday to get by a bottleneck at the entrance to the venue. But what will be noticeable are a handful of major absences at the summit.

India’s chief Minister Narendra Modi attends the opening ceremony of COP26 in Glasgow on Monday. Modi says his country will aim to stop adding greenhouse gases to the air by 2070. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Xi Jinping, president of top carbon-polluting country China, won’t be in Glasgow. Figueres said his absence isn’t that big a deal because he isn’t leaving the country during the pandemic and his climate envoy is a veteran negotiator.

In a written statement delivered at the summit on Monday, Xi called on all parties to take stronger action to jointly tackle the climate challenge, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese president also urged developed countries to not only do more but also sustain developing nations to do 
better on climate change, Xinhua said. 

WATCH | Politicians at COP26 only ‘pretending’ to take future seriously, says Thunberg: 

Politicians at COP26 only ‘pretending’ to take future seriously, says Thunberg

Climate activist Greta Thunberg says real leadership on climate change will not come from politicians attending the COP26 gathering in Glasgow, Scotland, because they are only ‘pretending to take our futures seriously.’ (Andrew Milligan/The Associated Press) 0:29

Biden, however, has chided China and Russia for their less-than-ambitious efforts to curb emissions and blamed them for a disappointing G20 statement on climate change.

Perhaps more troublesome for the UN summit is the absence of several small countries from the Pacific islands that couldn’t make it because of COVID-19 restrictions and logistics. That’s a big problem because their voices relay urgency, Figueres said.

In addition, the heads of several major emerging economies beyond China are also skipping the summit, including those from Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. That leaves India’s Modi the only leader present from the so-called BRICS countries, which explain more than 40 per cent of global emissions.

$100B in climate aid eyed

Increased warming over coming decades would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and greatly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather, scientists say. With every tenth of a degree of warming, the dangers soar faster, they say.

The other goals for the meeting are for high nations to give poor nations $100 billion US a year in climate aid and to reach an agreement to use half of the money to adapt to worsening climate impacts.

But Barbados chief Minister Mia Mottley, speaking for unprotected island nations, warned on Monday negotiators are falling short.

“This is immoral and it is unjust,” Mottley said. “Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?”

Before the UN climate summit, the G20 leaders, at the close of their meeting, offered vague climate pledges instead of commitments of firm action, saying they would seek carbon neutrality “by or around mid-century.” The countries also agreed to end public financing for coal-fired strength generation oversea, but set no target for phasing out coal domestically — a clear nod to China and India.

The G20 countries represent more than three-quarters of the world’s climate-damaging emissions and G20 summit great number Italy, and Britain, which is hosting the Glasgow conference, had been hoping for more ambitious targets coming out of Rome.

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