Grim warnings from world leaders gathering at COP26: 'We are digging our own graves'
THE scale of the challenge facing humanity was laid bare at the opening day of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, with world leaders all detailing in the starkest terms the dangers of not tackling climate change.
In his address to the plenary of the UN conference, President Joe Biden moved to distance himself from his predecessor Donald Trump, promising that the US was now “back at the table” and ready to lead by example.
More than 100 leaders were gathered in the Cairn Gorm room at the SEC, with each allocated time to speak on the first two days of the summit.
In his COP26 remarks, Biden said the world needed to help developing nations in the climate fight.
“We're standing at an inflection point in world history," Biden said.
"Climate change is already ravaging the world," he added. “It's not hypothetical. It's destroying people's lives and livelihoods.”
"We have the ability to invest in ourselves and build an equitable, clean-energy future and in the process create millions of good-paying jobs and opportunities around the world.”
"Every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases, so let this be the moment when we answer history's call, here in Glasgow,” he added.
There was some criticism of the president after he appeared to fall asleep during some of the earlier speeches.
One of the most startling interventions during the first day came from Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
“If our existence is to mean anything, then we must act in the interest of all of our people that are dependent on us,” she told her fellow leaders.
“Our world, my friends, stands at a fork in the road, one no less significant than when the United Nations was formed in 1945,” Mottley said.
“But then, the majority of our countries here did not exist – we exist now – and the difference is we want to exist 100 years from now.
“If our existence is to mean anything, then we must act in the interest of all of our people that 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.”
Developing nations, she said, were facing the consequences of the emissions they had not created. It was, she said necessary for larger nations to take action.
“1.5C is what we need to stay alive – two degrees is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique – and yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados.
“We do not want that dreaded death sentence and we’ve come here today to say: ‘Try harder, try harder.’
“Because our people, the climate army, the world, the planet, needs our action now – not next year, not in the next decade.”
She also spoke out against those who had not come to Glasgow, urging leaders to “encircle” countries unwilling to take action on emissions.
Both Russian president Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China, whose countries are some of the biggest emitters of carbon in the world, are not attending COP26.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that the effects of a climate change were being felt “from the ocean depths to the mountaintops.”
“Sea level rise has doubled from 30 years ago,” he said. “Oceans are hotter than ever, parts of the Amazon rain forest emit more carbon than they absorb, and in the last decade about four billion people were affected by events related to the changing climate.”
“Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper,” Guterres said. “We are digging our own graves.”
Despite the fine words, there was little optimism at the start of the conference. The measures needed to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5C are substantial and urgent and likely to face pushback from a number of countries.
In his speech, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country was aiming to reach net zero by 2070, two decades later than the ambition of many others.
He called for the conference to focus more on adaptation, saying it had not been given the prominence of mitigation.
"For farmers in most developing countries, including India, climate is a big challenge. There is a change in cropping patterns. Crops are being destroyed by untimely rain or floods or relentless storms," Modi said.
The world leaders will be at Kelvingrove Museum tonight for a “VVIP” dinner.
Protesters are due to gather outside.
Cat Scothorne from Glasgow Calls Out Polluters said: "How dare these world leaders have a fancy dinner on the first night of COP26, as if they have something to be proud of?”
“The continued support of the fossil fuel industry by the heads of state, particularly in the global North, is killing millions of people. The consequences of climate change are faced by people not in power, but those mainly in the global South and people on sites where extraction occurs, yet the perpetrators sit in luxury, insulated from it all."