A COP26 Cheat Sheet

The who, what and God knows why of the latest UN climate summit

COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, not the latest in a Netflix police series, is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, between 31 October and 12 November 2021, while the UK holds the rotating presidency.


They chose Glasgow for its huge number of pubs and they’re going to need them all given the Russians alone are planning to send a delegation of 400 - vodka anyone?. If each country fly in the same number of delegates we could hit the desired target of 1.5 degrees of warming by the end of the conference. Bravo!

The Italians are co-hosts so they’ll ensure there are enough baristas and pizzaiolos on hand as haulage drivers are running low. And because apparently that’s the circular economy! Almost 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions, which is like asking 200 youth offenders and associated gangs to hand their homework in on time.

For almost three decades, world governments have met nearly every year to forge a global response to the climate emergency. Given we keep going backwards on emissions it tells you pretty much all you need to know about the effectiveness of politicians.

Under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - (what the f***?!), every country on Earth is treaty-bound to “avoid dangerous climate change”, and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way. ‘Equitable’?? Equitable, my Paris accord, equitable.

With the heating, storms, fires and continued lack of service on Ryanair flights, it looks like we’re way beyond being treaty-bound to “avoid dangerous climate change”. Which means that even a COP a day won’t keep this climate thing away.

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All countries have been urged to revise their climate plans, called NDCs, before Cop26 in line with a 1.5C target, which in turn is the lower of the two Paris goals. Stay with me. Scientists estimate that emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030, compared with 2010 levels, and from there to net zero emissions by 2050, if we are to have a cats chance in hell of remaining within the 1.5C threshold.

The plans so far seem to focus on shifting to electric cars (as most of the delegates have invested in Tesla) and stopping the use of coal (because they hope, one day, to invest in a nifty little electric fan heater from Dyson). They are also big into renewable energy and figuring out how to stop cows passing wind so as to cut methane emissions - if not, they’ll just attach them to wind turbines.

They want to make home heating and air conditioning more efficient by getting heat out of the ground and having us buy expensive curtains. They may as well figure out how to get cold water (for air con) out at the same time and stick a cow down there for good measure in the hope that farts warm the place up and that it provides a handy source of beef-from-the-basement once meat gets banned. (Just park the creature where you stashed the whisky during prohibition).

The UN recently reported that current NDCs, including those that have been newly submitted or revised by the US, the EU, the UK and more than 100 others, are still inadequate. They would result in a 16% increase in emissions, far from the 45% cut needed. So that’s a good start.

And all major oil producers, except the UK and Indonesia, plan to increase their fossil fuel production for a few more decades - so you do the maths!

But it could all change given that Barack Obama and the Queen have decided to show up. Barack because he’s very persuasive from the pulpit and the Queen because everyone’s shit scared of her and she seems to have it in for leaders who talk rather than do. In the mean time, Chris Packham has scolded the Queen for not doing anything either. And Greta has it in for everyone.

They should aim their ire at the most wanted climate crooks, listed as the bad, bad and the ugly of climate emissions - including China, United States, India, Russia and Japan. Not surprisingly, other than the US, the rest don’t seem to want to play ball. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is playing - with a wrecking ball aimed at the Amazon rainforest. If we don’t get that lot in line we head straight to 3 degrees warming. Yea!

China’s Xi you-did-it-so-we’re-doing-it and Russia’s Putin-ogarch will not attend the summit as they don’t like getting scolded and, in any case, they’re too busy driving up gas prices and planning World War III.

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If things go sideways in Glasgow, which is looking increasingly likely, there’s always the sister event next spring (apparently hosted by China, who may or may not show up), which is designed to solve the biodiversity crisis. Given they’ve spent 26 COP’s getting nowhere with climate - they’d like to prove they can make an equal budgerigar of the nature come wildlife disaster. Mind you, when this extra summit goes south, at least there’s a Letts Safari for that.

COP26 is unlikely to set us on a clear path to achieving 1.5C, so we may as well prepare ourselves for the fact that the climate mess will have to get cleaned up by us mere mortals (the new sovereign citizens). At least they’ll have a nice shindig in Glasgow - which will, no doubt, carve a place in history for being the world’s greatest superspreader event. Shame, it could have been so much more.


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