Products of Change


Tue 02 Nov 2021 | by Rob Hutchins

COP26 | Day One delivers 'landmark moment' amid hard-hitting realities

“If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilise the planet, then surely working together we are a force powerful enough to save it,” was the note hit by Sir David Attenborough as he delivered his rallying cry at COP26’s opening ceremony on Monday afternoon. Taking his place among the voices of environmental champions from across the globe to address the world’s leaders gathering at the UN Climate Change summit in Glasgow this week, the 95 year old broadcaster delivered yet another stark message that humanity has placed itself in great danger by ‘breaking’ the climate of the Earth. “Everything we have achieved in the last 10,000 years has been enabled because of the [climate] stability in this time,” Attenborough told a room (almost) filled with world leaders, including US president, Joe Biden and India’s Narendra Modi. “The global temperature has not wavered over this period by more than either plus or minus one degree Celsius. Until now. We are already in trouble. The stability we all depend on is breaking.” Some hard truths were delivered during the opening ceremony, not least the message that the ambitions of the Paris Agreement to keep climate change to no more than 1.5C was not going to be met should action from the world’s nations remain at its current rate. The best, the room was told, that the world could hope for was a rise of 2.7C – described as ‘the best case scenario’ should things not change with urgency.

Sir David Attenborough calls on united efforts to rescue the planet.
Stubborn Optimism But despite the matter that things are currently not looking optimistic, expert on the natural world, and possibly humanity’s biggest champion, Sir David Attenborough still managed to find that glimmer of hope, calling humans ‘the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth,’ and calling on a unification in order to reverse the already run-out clock. That glimmer began to take a more defined form on Monday, when COP26 delivered its first ‘landmark moment’ for nature as world leaders representing more than 100 nations – which between them play host to more than 85 per cent of forests globally – committed to ending deforestation and reversing land degradation. The commitment had already garnered financial support pledges of $8.75bn from national governments and $5.3bn from the private sector. The UK government has pledged to provide £1.5bn to the initiative. The initiative has seen nations commit to halt deforestation and land degradation by 2030, and to enter into a period of restoration by this deadline. Funding will be provided to developing nations as a priority, as well as for initiatives that seek to ensure the rights of Indigenous communities are respected. Edie reports that some 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity is estimated to be concentrated within regions where Indigenous communities are based. Commenting on the commitment, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “Forests support communities, livelihods, and food supply, and absorb the carbon we pump into the atmosphere. They are essential to our very survival. “With today’s unprecedented pledges, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead become its custodian.” Keep 1.5C alive Small triumphs aside, however, it remained a hard-hitting opening of COP26 as voiced by those from nations already experiencing the worst physical impacts of the climate crisis. Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley called 2C a ‘dreaded death sentence’ for Island Nations and urged other nations to bear this in mind, stating that not choosing to ‘keep 1.5C alive’ is ultimately an active choice. She urged nations to use the technologies already available ‘rather than betting on those which do not yet exist,’ suggesting that this approach would be “reckless at best and dangerous at worst.” Sir David Attenborough delivered that same message in his own address when he concluded that “this story is one of inequality as well as instability. “Today, those who have done the least to cause this problem are among those to be hardest hit. Ultimately, all of us will feel the impact, some of which is unavoidable. “Is this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?”