This past weekend the COP26 climate conference in Scotland was held.  Although it is not over, it is absent of the world leaders who attended the first two days.

The direction has been set, but the chance for the most decisive action has likely departed, as has the various presidents, chancellors and prime ministers, are long gone. As things stand, the gathering is looking like a huge failure.

Probably its most enthusiastic proponent, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “cautiously optimistic” on Tuesday, that any change would come.

Before the summit began Johnson said, “The climate crisis is like a soccer match in which the world was losing by 5 goals to 1. By Tuesday, he said the score line was closer to 5-2 or 5-3, after big announcements on reducing methane emissions, ending deforestation, and pledging cash to tackle climate change. But losing by two points is still losing.

The goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050, a threshold identified as crucial by scientists in preventing irreversible damage to the planet, has yet to be agreed upon by countries. The hopes of reaching such agreements, the only metric by which COP26 could really be seen as a triumph, receded fast.

China’s President Ix Jinping was widely criticized for failing to attend the summit at all, given that China is responsible for nearly 30% of the world’s carbon emissions, leading all countries in carbon emissions. Russia’s Vladimir Putin didn’t bother to attend either, although both men offered a meekly improved target.

U.S. President Joe Biden criticized both leaders saying, “The fact that China is trying to assert a new role in the world as a world leader, not showing up? Come on, it’s just a gigantic issue and they’ve walked away. How do you do that and claim to have any leadership now? Same with Putin in Russia, his tundra is burning. Literally his tundra is burning. He has serious, serious climate problems and he’s mum on his willingness to do anything.”

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, all nations of the world would need to reach net-zero emissions, which means it would be critical for China’s commitment to comply, to achieve the net-zero.

China’s climate envoy, Xi Zhenhuan, said China was not against the target but has also refused to commit to it. Without the Chinese compliance, 2 degrees is probably the best that can be achieved.
India, who is the world’s fourth largest polluter, announced this week that it would seek carbon neutrality. This is a move widely hailed as a step in the right direction for a country, that has not previously made a net-zero commitment.

The fact remains is that India lags 20 years behind in net-zero commitments made behind high income countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., and would set the world on a path to miss the 1.5-degree target.

But, high income countries in the West have lived up to their promises, where a 2015 pledge from the Paris Climate Summit saw nations including the U.S. and Germany pledge donations of $100 billion to poorer countries to help tackle climate change. That pledge remains unfulfilled.

Dubbed “the last chance saloon” by Britain’s Prince Charles, the stakes at the Glasgow summit have been made clear. The UN warned that the consequences of failure are conflicts, mass migration of whole populations, greater terrorist threats and food insecurity.

The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley used a speech at COP26 on Tuesday to warn that a 2-degree rise would be a “death sentence” for islands and coastal communities like hers saying, “If our existence is to mean anything, then we must act in the interest of all of our people who are dependent on us. If we don’t, we will allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”

Johnson, Biden and other world leaders departed Glasgow on Tuesday, leaving teams of negotiators trying to thrash out the terms of a deal that could have historic significance. The “Omens” so far are not good.

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