COP26 climate summit: John Kerry's talk of our 'last, best hope' must spur world into action – Scotsman comment

11 days to COP26: The description of the Glasgow COP26 summit as “the last, best hope” to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius by John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, may be cause of optimism for some, despair for others.

On the one hand, here is a senior member of the government of the country that produces the second-largest amount of greenhouse gases recognising the importance of making fundamental changes.

If Glasgow is our “best” hope, then surely world leaders will make the right decisions and we can look forward to the future.

On the other hand, like most countries, the US is off track to make the carbon-emission reductions required and China, the world’s most populous country and its biggest source of greenhouse gases, is currently not even planning to try to cut its emissions until they peak in 2030.

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If Glasgow is our “last” hope, it looks unlikely the world will put itself on course to halve emissions by 2030 and net-zero by the middle of the century – required to stand a chance of keeping within 1.5C of warming – without an unexpected breakthrough.

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John Kerry, American climate envoy, says COP26 in Glasgow is world's "last, best...

As Kerry pointed out in a BBC interview, “the truth is emissions are going up around the world, not down in enough countries, and key countries are pursuing policies that border on being very dangerous for everybody”.

So if world leaders allow this “last, best hope” to slip from their grasp, what then?

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has described the COP26 climate summit as the 'last, best hope' to keep global warming within 1.5C (Picture: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)

It is possible that a coalition of the willing could ignore the refusenik states, forge ahead and build a new green economy that forces the others to play catch-up as they realise they are falling behind technologically. It may be that tree planting and artificial removal of carbon from the atmosphere could make a difference.

With a long-standing scientific consensus of 99 per cent, we know with virtual certainty that we must stop sending greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow.

The sooner we start doing this, the easier the process will be. The longer we delay, the more dramatic and difficult the changes become, and the greater the risk of a global catastrophe on an utterly unprecedented scale.

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