Can Glasgow Summit COPe With Climate Crisis?

A UN-sponsored marathon conference to tackle the global climate crisis is due to being the British city of Glasgow, the coming Sunday (31 October) and will continue till 12 November. The world leaders will meet in the so-called last-ditch effort to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, besides considering plans to how to stop burning fossil fuels, stabilise global temperatures and share money to adapt to increasingly extreme weather.

The global leaders signed up the Paris Agreement in 2015 — with a supposedly non-binding target to keep warming well below 2 C above pre-industrial temperatures, and ideally 1.5 C — yet most of the participating countries continue to burn fossil fuels and chop down trees at rates incompatible with that goal.

With the effects of climate change visible in both rich and poor countries alike, the leaders are meeting for what analysts expect to be the most meaningful conference since that pledge. Climate change has shot up the political agenda amid deadly weather extremes and mass public protest, and leaders of several polluting countries have pledged to decarbonise their economies by the middle of the century.

Summit’s Agenda

The world leaders got to choose how fast their country will cut emissions Under the Paris Agreement, besides agreeing to update their action plans for doing so every five years. But in reality just weeks before the summit, big emitters like China, India and Saudi Arabia are yet to submit new plans.

Reportedly UK, which is co-hosting the summit with Italy, has pressured countries to submit new plans and is pushing for concrete deals that would help reach those targets. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called on world leaders to deliver bold commitments on “coal, cars, cash and trees.”

The UK is pushing for a treaty that would “consign coal to history” and has proposed a deadline of 2040 to stop selling combustion engine cars. It also wants to put more money into stopping deforestation.

According to the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) COP26 will work towards four goals: Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilise assured finance to help developing and under-developed countries to attain emission cuts, and work together to deliver to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.

On the really big question of keeping the 1.5C temperature threshold within reach, the likelihood is that a significant gap will remain even after Glasgow. Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, those countries that have used fossil fuels the most over the past two centuries – the US and from Europe – accept they will make the bigger cuts in the short term. The larger developing nations that are now the biggest source of CO2 – chiefly China – accept they will make the bigger cuts in the longer term.

The environmentalist and experts say that we can very easily understand the colossal and disastrous results of the climate change, if we can observe the following four weather changes, which have been caused by the increasing global temperature due to the emission of CO2 and other poisonous gases like methane into the atmosphere: Hotter and longer heat waves, more persistent droughts, more fuel for wildfires, and more extreme rainfall events are the resultant climate change vagaries.

Meanwhile, an interesting report by the US intelligence agency’s assessment of climate change has come out and as per the report, India and Pakistan are among the 11 highly vulnerable countries in terms of their ability to prepare for as well as respond to the environmental and social impact of climate change. The first-ever US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the issue of climate change has been published, and it adds that India along with China will be crucial in determining the trajectory at which there is a rise in global temperatures. On the other hand, the report has downplayed the role that the Western world has played in the problem of climate change. Further the report has warned that the possibility of geopolitical tensions and the risk to US national security are present due to global warming in the run up to 2040.

Expectations From Summit

In another development before the summit, India has said that it will raise the topic of compensation to developing nations for the losses caused by climate disasters. The Indian environment ministry said that India stands with other low-income and developing nations on the matter and the compensation clause will be negotiated at the upcoming climate summit.

India has reiterated that the countries responsible for climate change should finance what they have committed to and make technology available at an affordable cost. It is also confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will put forward the Indian stand at the summit

Meanwhile, reports say that Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International has warned against efforts by countries and corporations at the forthcoming talks in Glasgow to “green wash” their on-going pollution of the planet.

By doing so, governments would “give that kind of hope and confidence to their people that they got this and that they’re willing to do things that their corporate interests don’t want them to do,” she added.

Morgan pointed to leaked documents showing how countries such as Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are apparently trying to water down an upcoming UN science panel report on global warming as evidence of the way in which some governments’ public support for climate action is undermined by their efforts behind closed doors.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace indicate how those countries wanted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to remove references to the need to shut down coal-fired power stations, reduce meat consumption and focus on actual emissions cuts rather than ways to capture carbon already released into the atmosphere.

Various outcomes of the Glasgow Summit in view of the non-adherence to the goals of the Paris Agreement are being predicted. Yet, barring a complete collapse in the talks, there are likely to be a range of tangible outcomes. It’s expected that more countries will announce they are moving away from using coal for energy, and more nations may probably sign up to curb methane emissions.

There is only a moral pressure to improve your offer, and a degree of embarrassment if a country doesn’t step up to the mark. Glasgow will reveal whether this approach actually works.

As Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena has put it succinctly and wisely in a recent speech, tackling climate requires a great deal of fortitude, imagination, hope and leadership. If western leaders listen, engage and act decisively on what science demands of them, there is still time to make COP26 the success it desperately needs to be.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

‘Recycling, Not Discarding, Holy Idols Is True Worship’

Nashik-based advocate Tripti Gaikwad (33) is an eco-warrior who recycles idols and photo frames of Hindu religious figures often immersed in water bodies or abandoned by devotees

I am a religious person. I find it ironical that many believers who worship gods in idol forms and seek their blessings every day, also discard them once they wear out. You can find idols or framed photos of gods or goddesses lying under trees or floating in water bodies. By doing this, we are not only disrespecting our deities but also polluting Mother Nature.

Two years ago, I was watching a flooded river Godavari in Nashik when I saw a man at the bank carrying four large photo frames to be immersed. I reasoned with him not to immerse those frames as it would pollute the water. Instead, I suggested, he can make use of the frames by recycling them. The man relented and took away the frames back with him.

That is when I felt I need to push and formalize this idea to recycle discarded material. I spoke to my friends and we discussed the possible recycling methods and products to be made out of castoff photo frames and idols of holy figures.

Tripti with her team of volunteers at her recycling venture

We worked out that cardboard can be mixed with water and used for gardening. The wood had several uses and the idols could be turned into Plaster of Paris (PoP) for reuse as building material or for making toys. I then drafted a text message and sent it across several groups, asking to not throw away their old photo frames and religious statues as I could put them to good use.

The idea struck well. We immediately started receiving phone calls and the material. To date, over last two years, we have recycled more than 25,000 idols, statues and frames sent to us from across the country.

People from the nearby rural areas take Plaster of Paris from me and are using it as a putti for their houses. With wood we have started making chaff/straw while good quality frames are used to make trendy nests for the birds. We also get idols made of metals like brass, copper, even silver. We sort them and melt them for reuse.

Some of the recycled products at Sampurnam run by Tripti Gaikwad (right)

I am a professional advocate and this is my social project. I have also registered a foundation called Sampurnam Sewa foundation for the purpose and rented a place as our warehouse and workshop. We now are a team of around 20 volunteers who spread the message through social media/ Whatsapp and coordinate for collections.

I would like to mention that I find spiritual strength in my work as I feel I am trying to be in tandem with the earth. We harm nature without realising they these elements are also our gods who nurture us. Any harm to the nature will one day boomerang on us. Just as humans are either cremated or buried so our bodies are decomposed, the gods also want the same for themselves – turn them into soil. That is the true way to show our respect to the revered gods.

As told to Mamta Sharma