Last chance to save the planet as world leaders gather for COP26

Special Last chance to save the planet as world leaders gather for COP26
Britain's President for COP26 Alok Sharma makes his opening speech at The Procedural Opening of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. (AFP)
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Updated 01 November 2021

Last chance to save the planet as world leaders gather for COP26

Last chance to save the planet as world leaders gather for COP26
  • Summit in Glasgow to agree global framework for combating climate change
  • UK conference president warns that talks are ‘last, best hope’ to keep rising temperatures within target range

GLASGOW: World leaders are gathering in Glasgow for an environmental summit seen by many observers as the last chance to agree a global framework to combat climate change.

Formally opening COP26 on Saturday, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told delegates: “We stand at a pivotal point in history. Humanity faces several stark but clear choices.”

Alok Sharma, the UK government’s president of COP26, said: “Together, we can seize the enormous opportunities for green growth, for good green jobs, and for cheaper, cleaner power.”

COP26 is hoping to agree measures that will keep global temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, which experts agree is essential to prevent rapid global warming. Sharma said the talks were the “last, best hope” to meet that target.

Saudi officials were traveling to Glasgow to take part in the opening day of intergovernmental discussions, with US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel among leaders attending in person.

The Russian and Chinese governments, crucial because of their big presence in global energy markets, will be represented by large delegations.

The Kingdom’s position was largely spelt out at the Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh last week, with a target ofnet zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 and a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 under the “nationally determined contributions” framework of the UN.

Saudi Arabia has promoted the Circular Carbon Economy as the best way to tackle climate change, and itsproposals will be debated over the next two weeks in Glasgow.

But a comprehensive deal by the 120 leaders expected to attend looks some way off. A meeting of G20 leaders in Rome before the Glasgow gathering failed to deliver any new pledges on climate change, and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said his hopes were “unfulfilled.”

The World Meteorological Organization presented a report to COP26 delegates that found the past seven years to be the warmest on record, with sea levels reaching new highs — “uncharted territory” for the planet, with “far reaching repercussions for current and future generations.”

Climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Glasgow to an enthusiastic reception from supporters. About 25,000 people are expected to attend the event at the Scottish Exhibition Centre on the banks of the river Clyde.