Saturday, November 27

COP26 in Glasgow: Where climate summits reach their limits

Status: 10/30/2021 11:24 a.m.

The magnitude of the climate conference in Glasgow, which starts tomorrow, raises hopes but also fears. Both are also dependent on domestic political considerations – and a question of control.

By Werner Eckert, SWR, currently Glasgow

Expectations are not simply set, they are set and politically motivated, mostly domestic – and so the politicians practice expectation management in the run-up to the climate summit in Glasgow. US President Joe Biden puts pressure and speaks of alarm. And his special envoy for the climate, John Kerry, takes the lead: “Glasgow is the last real hope of avoiding the worst effects of climate change – through our choices and their implementation.”

In fact, the theoretical chance to stop the global warming at 1.5 degrees will probably only exist for a short time. But Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary in the Federal Environment Ministry, believes that putting the pressure on Glasgow is not very effective: “No climate conference can make the world different overnight.”

The whole thing is a long process, according to Flasbarth, in which the states and the economy make the decisions at home. The UN negotiations only ensured the legal framework.

A fundamental dilemma

Basically that is the dilemma of these conferences: high expectations on the one hand and few opportunities on the other.

The US president hardly thinks of Glasgow first when he puts pressure on him: he has to swear his compatriots at home and his senators to a new climate protection policy. He wanted to present a completed legislative package in Glasgow, but cannot because there is resistance from within his own ranks.

China is also holding back with more specific commitments, and India is again following China. Its head of state and party Xi Jinping is not even coming to Glasgow, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is also staying away – and the fact that the Queen and the Pope have also canceled makes things bitter for Boris Johnson, the British prime minister and host.

His expectation management is like this: “It will be a tough thing and I am deeply concerned: It can also go wrong!”

Where decisions can be made

Niklas Höhne, who heads the New Climate Institute think tank, analyzes: There is only one area in which there can and must really be decisions based on the negotiations. Namely, “an agreement on the rules of the Paris Climate Agreement, simply to show that this process can make decisions and not always postponed. That is the most important thing.”

It is about rules for how states that do not achieve their climate protection goals can buy credits from others that do more.

What about the voluntary commitments?

Politically, of course, the world is looking at the national voluntary commitments, which now, around five years after the Paris climate conference, have had to be tightened. It’s more of a process, though, and Glasgow is unlikely to see any breakthrough announcements – they were made over the course of the year.

A slow process, but still. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants more: “The science is clear, now the politicians have to act concretely. They have to come to Glasgow with courageous and quick announcements on how to achieve climate neutrality.”

Then it comes to the money, the 100 billion US dollars with which the industrialized countries wanted to help the poorer with climate protection from 2020 onwards. That won’t work until 2023 – the facts are also clear there, but this is being discussed politically in Glasgow.

And then there will be topics such as the coal phase-out and clear guidelines for the greenhouse gas methane. Alliances will come together that will lead the way.

Thunberg’s appeal to the youth

People have to recognize that things cannot go on like this and that the system has to be changed, says the icon of the youth climate movement, Greta Thunberg. “That’s where the changes come from, not from the conferences.”

All topics going beyond this – climate targets, cash flows, coal phase-out – are dealt with politically in Glasgow and not negotiated.

The change must come from the people, says Thunberg. They would have to realize that it couldn’t go on like this and that the lifestyle had to be changed.

Expectations for the climate conference in Glasgow

Werner Eckert, SWR, currently Glasgow, October 29, 2021 3:44 p.m.

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