COP28 climate summit must end three decades of failure to tackle carbon emissions – Scotsman comment
Given that greenhouse gas emissions and the world’s average temperatures are continuing to rise, it’s understandable that people are increasingly questioning the effectiveness of the United Nations’ annual COP climate summits. Nearly 30 years after the first meeting, the problem is still getting worse, despite the celebrations of supposed breakthroughs such as the Paris Agreement of 2015.
According to climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, the COP meetings have produced little more than “decades of blah, blah, blah”. According to climate scientist Professor Bill McGuire, writing in this paper today, COP28 is a “bloated sham”. But, according to Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, while the process has its flaws, it is “the international framework that we’ve got” and “we have to make the best use of it we can”.
There is no question that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which supplies the world with scientific assessments, has done an invaluable job. However, despite the wealth of evidence and hard data, a serious problem is that COP decisions are taken only when there is a consensus among countries, giving dictators whose power depends on oil wealth and others with reasons to resist change an inordinate amount of influence over the entire world’s actions.
At COP26 in Glasgow, a resolution to “phase out” coal – a significant commitment – was changed at the last minute to the almost meaningless “phase down” at the insistence of only a handful of countries. Progress is never going to be swift in such circumstances.
COP28 in Dubai is surely the last chance for world leaders to demonstrate that the current process can actually deliver. If a minority of the 196 countries in attendance insist on further delays, the rest of the world should at least consider leaving them behind. Majority voting would allow COP meetings to make greater progress and the laggards would likely discover, eventually, that it is in their economic interest to fall in line.
After three decades of failure, time is running out for the world to continue to move at the pace of the slowest in the race to avoid dangerous climate change.
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