Global climate change summit has future of world in its hands
Prince Charles, with characteristic frankness, recently expressed his understanding of why radical climate change campaigners like Insulate Britain take to the streets to demand action.
Insulate Britain, a breakaway from Extinction Rebellion, has blocked major motorways in England, causing massive traffic hold-ups and widespread anger from frustrated motorists.
While he carefully stressed that blocking roads “isn’t helpful”, the prince understood the frustration of the protesters and insisted they should do things in a way that doesn’t alienate people.
He said they “should direct that frustration in a way that is more constructive, rather than destructive”.
Prince Charles colourfully described the forthcoming Cop26 Glasgow climate change summit as “the last-chance saloon” for the international community.
It would be a disaster, he said, if the world didn’t come together to tackle climate change.
He bluntly stated, if serious action wasn’t taken, it would be catastrophic.
He added: “Nothing in nature can survive the stress that is created by these extremes of weather.”
It is refreshing to hear such a passionate warning by a non-politician like Prince Charles on such a critical problem as climate change.
His views were well thought out and skilfully expressed. He sensitively reflected on the enormous challenges facing the world and the immediate action required to be taken by governments right across the globe at the Cop26 summit, beginning on Halloween.
His timely warning is similar to the intervention by another non-politician, Pope Francis, whose time in office has been marked by his emphasis on what he has termed “an integral ecology”.
His inspirational encyclical, Laudato Si, published in 2015, highlighted his commitment to dealing with the enormous challenges of environmental degradation and global warming.
In that seminal document he emphasised the moral duty of Christians, in particular, to cherish the Earth, which God has given to mankind to look after as his stewards.
In Rome two weeks ago, together with several other religious leaders, both Christian and non-Christian, Pope Francis signed a joint appeal to the world’s governments to commit to ambitious targets at the Cop26 meeting.
The pontiff and the other religious leaders jointly declared: “Care for the environment is a moral imperative to preserve God’s creation for future generations.”
Sombrely, they warned us: “We have inherited a garden. We must not leave a desert to our children.”
Collectively, the leaders have pressed the need for the developed economies, which in effect have brought about global warming and the subsequent climate emergency, to provide financial support to the most vulnerable economies.
But for the ordinary man or woman in the street, though distantly aware of the imminent meeting in Glasgow, the question is: what can be achieved by this much-heralded summit?
The simple answer is time is running out, as the window for opportunity for action on climate change is narrowing at an increasing speed.
We have all witnessed on our TV screens this year incidents of extreme weather, causing widespread destruction and death across Europe, Asia and America.
In August the United Nations published an expert panel report on climate change that concluded there is unequivocal evidence human activity is already changing the world in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described it as “code red for humanity”.
Therefore, Cop26 is a vital opportunity to make good and build upon the pledges on climate change made at Cop21 in Paris in 2015.
The Paris agreement was the most comprehensive to date to deal with global warming.
Almost 200 nations signed a binding treaty to hold global average temperature rises to well below 2 degrees centigrade, compared to pre-industrial levels, and try to limit rises to 1.5 degrees centigrade.
Specific pledges were made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These commitments are acknowledged to be insufficient, therefore it is necessary to revisit them in order to ratchet them upwards.
Unfortunately, despite the Paris commitments, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. The primary aim is to plot a way forward to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.
The UK, EU and the US have all pledged to cut emissions by at least 50% by 2030.
But other major countries like China, Russia, Australia and India have yet to agree improved reductions.
Getting nations to agree to these new reductions is the key goal of the Glasgow summit. The targets of Cop26 are immensely challenging and its success will only be measured by the commitment of states to fulfil their pledges.
Meanwhile, the future of the world hangs in the balance. And, as Prince Charles has suggested, we really are in “the last-chance saloon”.