COP26: Why the climate summit shouldn't have been held in Glasgow

Even as the climate change conference here in Glasgow has entered the business-end of negotiations, my home city of Chennai in southern India – co-incidentally with a distinct Scottish connect, with Sir Thomas Munro a much loved Governor of the erstwhile Madras Presidency – is witnessing excessive rainfall that has already flooded large parts of the city.

The extreme weather event, in all likelihood exacerbated by human-induced climate change that is drowning my city, is a bleak filter through which I’m witnessing developments here.

In many ways it feels futile to watch the global community and its leaders argue about the nitty-gritty of climate financing and ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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This led me to imagine a COP that takes place on the frontlines of the climate crisis and what that would look like?

A motorist shelters under an umbrella while riding along a road during heavy monsoon rainfall in Chennai. Picture: Arun Sankar/AFP via Getty Images

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While the UK and Scotland are witnessing the effects of human-induced climate change, this geography is relatively stable, at least for now.

If the COP were in Chennai right now, delegates would have had to deal with their cars and buses rendered immobile due to flooded roads, hours in darkness because of the electricity grid being shut down as a safety measure and conference venues whose scaffolding is giving way because of the extremely strong winds that accompanies a cyclonic storm.

If for some reason the UNFCCC decides to brace for these challenges and goes ahead with a COP in a flooding city waiting to be hit by another storm, I wonder what effect that will have on the negotiations made?

Will there be more of a resolve to go to net zero as soon as possible? Will the question of what degree of global warming is ‘acceptable’ be rendered meaningless (as it should be)?

Will the developed world witness the suffering in front of its eyes and decide to expedite the funds needed to rehabilitate the people affected by the climate crisis?

I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. For the time being, one can only hope the crisis that is playing out in my city right now and in several other parts of our world, at least, gets the global community to realise that there is no time left to deal with humanity’s biggest challenge yet.

- Sibi Arasu is an independent journalist from Chennai, India.

This story was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organised by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Centre for Peace and Security.

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