Our friend Peter Wells writes from COP 26 – Sorry for the delay in getting this to you, we just wrapped up our art program here and tomorrow we rest. Here are a few thoughts:
As of October 31st, every hotel bed in Glasgow, and nearly every bed in Edinburgh had been filled as 30,000 people began to descend on Scotland for the UN Climate Su -mmit COP26 (the 26th Conference of Parties). Five years since the Paris Agreement at COP21 to keep global warming well below 2° C and ideally held to 1.5° C, COP26 focuses on nations’ NDCs(Nationally Determined Contributions) to address a) will they make it to the critical milestones of 50% emissions reduction by 2030 & Net-Zero by 2050 and b) will the “developed” nations of the world follow through on their promise to give $100B USD (and 1T / 10 years) to “developing nations” for mitigation and adaptation (as they will bear the worse impacts of climate change). This is a token sum, but is an important litmus test of trust. There are many other targets in mind including China, Australia, et al. sunsetting all coal production (however unlikely) and board adoption of the 30×30 target (30% of land & seascapes protected by 2030). Police presence is very visible around the city and Glasgow has an electricity to it. I arrived in Glasgow after 53 hours traveling here from Portugal by train and bus, the Carlisle – Glasgow segment was poetically flooded due to extreme rainfall.
As of November 7th, we have reached the halfway point in this all out race to avert the worst of the climate crisis already upon us. After 7 days of pomp and circumstance, military-scale organization, behind the scenes negotiations, and colossal civil society engagement, Sunday is a day of rest for all (excepting the organizing team who are still working 20-hour days). After a day a wind and rain, which did not stop a river of 100,000+ people protesting for climate for action here in the city, the dust has settled on the first week. Here are a few things we know:
- As of today, 89% of the world’s energy sources are committed to Net-Zero by 2050 and holding the 1.5C target. 1.5 is alive.
- Over 130 trillion USD in new assets has been aligned to climate finance
- China and Saudi Arabia have committed to net-zero by 2o60 and India by 2070 (debatably a positive result)
- major commitments have been made toward methane, coal, and deforestation
- The 100B has not been reached (still appox. 80B/year for developing countries)
- UNFCCC Pavilion has the best coffee, the kiosk near the Papua New Guinea Pavilion has the worst sandwiches.
- Australia is the laughing stock of the world and deserves it.
Day-to-day the interior of COP26 is a very busy experience. The vast Scottish Event Campus has by international law been temporarily designated as UN property and been fitted with 3 rigorous layers of security, requiring every entrant to show a daily negative Covid test result, ID, and UN confirmation letter or event badge. After running this gauntlet, the exhibition hall of national pavilions, labyrinthine temporary offices, atriums, and negotiating rooms opens up to wander through, with the right clearance. You could spend hours wandering through and still not see it all.
The 3 roles which people fall into here are a) delegation / negotiating party member (working insanely hard behind the scenes, racing around with doom written on your face) b) a state party member (the extended entourage of a nation or global corporate, prodigiously networking the event and hosting side events to lobby/convince everyone they’re walking the walk) or c) media / observer (fixed to their keyboard, recorder, or lens trying as best you can to keep on top of the torrent of news and context unfolding and being distilled every day).
It is a hectic, and exciting atmosphere, punctuated by press calls in every language you can imagine, VIPs being moved to and fro and shouts of El Pueblo Unido from small protest actions, intimate conservations of negotiators in random corners, and old friends from far-flung delegations embracing after 2 years of isolation. The stakes are high in this place, but there has NEVER been more political (or financial) will to deliver results. As every advertisement, busker, subway stop, and cab driver will remind you, the eyes of the world are on you; Get it done.