One of the peculiarities of the UN climate conference in Glasgow is the rare opportunity it affords for the world’s most polluting countries and the nations facing the consequences of their actions to share the same room. “We must hold each other accountable,” said Surangel Whipps Jr, president of Palau, during the two-day high-level segment of Cop26 that ended yesterday. “We, the islands, are devastated most. The scorching sun is giving us intolerable heat; the warming sea is invading us. Our resources are disappearing before our eyes and our future is being robbed from us.”
This theme was echoed throughout the day yesterday – perhaps not coincidentally as many of the major polluters spoke a day earlier. “It’s heartbreaking to hear how island states have to pledge for their existence,” said Carlos Alvarado Quesada, president of Costa Rica (pictured). “We need the large economies to pull their act together. It’s a matter of life and death.”
Climate negotiations are never straightforward and successful summitry is an art form. But these first few days of Cop26 in Glasgow have delivered some hopeful signs: yesterday, 110 leaders of countries that account for 85 per cent of the world’s forests promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. And yesterday, an EU- and US-led initiative to slash global methane emissions was subscribed to by almost 90 more nations. The afternoon concluded with John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, announcing that his country would join the Ocean Panel, a high-level group with 14 other nations that is committed to sustainably managing the oceans under their national jurisdictions by 2025.
The real work begins today. The photo ops are done and dusted, speeches delivered and shredded. Now it’s time for working groups, government officials and those who have dedicated their careers to climate change to shine. Activists are describing this as the summit of our time; let’s hope everyone else thinks so too.
Tune in to Monocle 24 for our continuing coverage of the summit.