COP26 news: Greta Thunberg leads protest march at Glasgow summit

The COP26 summit saw a large number of youth activists who played a significant role in promoting urgency in action on climate change.
During the Fridays For Future march, demonstrators walk through Glasgow (UK) during Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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It's the end of week one at the COP26 international summit on climate change. It has been a hectic week, full of frantic announcements, chaos and fast pace. It is possible that it was not too prophetic that one cubicle wall in the Media Zone collapsed this morning.


Massive protests

Fridays for Future organized demonstrations in Glasgow on Friday. The movement was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist and her long-running school strike. Graham Lawton, a New Scientist, was present and reported that there was a large protest with approximately 25,000 people participating, according to the organizers.

This week's survey reveals the strong opinions held by many young people regarding climate change. The survey was conducted by Ipsos Research and Futerra Solutions Union in January and February. It asked 19,520 respondents aged 16-74 from 27 countries whether it was possible to decrease climate change.

58% of those interviewed were at least somewhat optimistic. 31% were fatalistic or defeatist. Humanity can't reduce climate change. But, we don't have the resources to do so. This pessimistic attitude was significantly more prevalent among younger people than it is among those over 50. It's no surprise that young people are giving passionate speeches at COP26.

We have already noted that the first week at COP26 saw a flurry, with many positive announcements. What are protesters most concerned about?

The lack of support for adaptation is a critical issue. This is help for those whose lives are being impacted by climate change. Although the developed countries promised $100 billion per year by 2020 to develop countries, they have not fulfilled their commitments.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre is an international non-governmental organization that estimates that hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes by weather-related events such as floods and storms in October. As a result, 30.7 million people were forced from their homes last year. If more assistance is not given to vulnerable communities, the number of people who are affected by climate catastrophes will only increase.

It is fair to say that school strikes have made a significant impact on the climate issue. Myles Allen, a University of Oxford climate scientist, wrote an open letter to school strikers in which he stated that they have had more of an impact on climate change in the last two years than I've managed over the past three decades.

Allen believes that companies responsible for releasing greenhouse gases should be held accountable and paid to clean up the mess. He says that this should be the main demand of protesters.

The greatest political challenge would be to force powerful polluters into paying. Sophia Smith Galer, Vice World News journalist, made a video highlighting the sponsors of COP26. This includes major emitters as well as those that have been complicit in deforestation.

Still rising emissions

COP26 is not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is the key to reducing global warming. This summit has focused more on decarbonisation than adaptation so far, with some success.

This is part a larger trend in green technologies that are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. Systemiq, a UK-based sustainability consultancy, has released a new report that shows low-carbon solutions have become competitive in many areas of the economy. According to the report, there could be market tipping points in certain sectors that account for 90% of global emissions by 2030, and all emissions by 2035. Adam Vaughan, for example, reports that electric cars will outsell diesel cars in the UK next year, for the first-ever time.

It is encouraging but not enough. This week, there has been a lot discussion about whether the new commitments at COP26 have set the world on the right track to limit global warming by 1.5 C. Some studies suggested that we may be close to limiting global warming to 1.5 C. These analyses were based on the optimistic assumption of keeping all promises, and that they would translate into swift action over the next ten years.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change released an updated assessment of future emission this morning. It basically said that there was no way to predict the future. The UNFCCC stated that global annual emissions are expected to increase by 14% by 2030. However, they must fall by 45% if we want to maintain 1.5 C in this century. Although the UNFCCC did not translate this into a predicted rise in temperature, given that it had previously predicted a rise of 16% by 2030, which would result in warming of 2.7 C it seems that this hasn't happened.

Gas is the biggest source of new emission. The report of Climate Analytics, a German non-profit organization, pithily entitled Why gas is the New Coal found that gas emissions rose by 42% between 2010 and 2019. Do you remember the projected rise in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030? 70% of this will come from gas. Although coal is on the verge of disappearing, we must also say goodbye to gas.

What to look out for

We are now halfway through COP26. Although there were some exciting announcements in the beginning, negotiations will become more difficult. The previous COPs were spectacularly overrun as talks went right down to the wire and then straight through it and out onto the other side to search for new wires.

Michael Marshall, a new scientist, vividly recalls seeing junior officials carrying pizza boxes in their negotiating rooms late at night during the 2012 COP. He realized that he wouldn't get much sleep for the next few hours. Alok Sharma, President of COP26, has said that he hopes to complete the COP26 on time on 12 November. Alok Sharma plans to hold a stocktaking meeting tomorrow night and will have nearly final negotiated texts by 10 November. We'll see.

Quote of the Day

John Kerry, the US climate ambassador, told delegates that Mother Nature is punishing them with droughts and floods, and that people are becoming increasingly angry at the inadequacy of their response. He was quick to respond when he was asked what his thoughts were on the various commitments made so far and what their implications would be for future temperature increases. Let me emphasize as strongly as possible: job not done.