COP26: will words be followed by action?

The heads of state and government gathered at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow have kicked off the event with urgent appeals. The US promised to adhere to its climate targets. Germany made the case for global carbon pricing and India said it was aiming to become climate neutral by 2070. For Europe's press, it is clear that the time for statements of intent is now over.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

The climate fight has begun

India's announcement is a slap in the face for the West, La Repubblica explains:

“It would be easy to dismiss this as the statement of a nationalist leader who wants to score points with his voter base at home by denouncing Europe and America. ... Modi's words are, in fact, also the result of a strategy that has its roots in centuries of bloody, violent and never-resolved tensions between the new economic powers of the East and their former colonial masters. With the Glasgow announcement, the prime minister of a subcontinent of 1.3 billion people put himself at the head of the emerging bloc in a climate struggle in which the developing world sees the West as hypocritical.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

We need hard numbers

Journalist Efi Triirix writes in Naftemporiki:

“The efforts for the climate undertaken so far are not enough. What is needed are detailed emission reduction plans and annual reports from all companies and at the same time a reform of the financial system with continuous assessments of bank holdings, transparency and liability. Hundreds of trillions of dollars in funding from governments and the private sector. And everyone must be judged not by what they say, but by the numbers they present: the funding for change, the amount of pollutants, emissions reductions, and the timetable for zero emmissions, which must be constantly readjusted: hard numbers for real and urgently needed sustainability.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Now we're getting down to business

It's good that those responsible for the climate crisis are meeting those who are suffering at their hands after the G20 summit, the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Among them are some who are already up to their ankles in water. Others have lived through droughts, floods or hurricanes. Still others wonder how they are supposed to manage economic development at all when the existence of classic sectors such as agriculture is threatened or heat waves are making life and work increasingly difficult. ... When those who are suffering and those who cause the suffering talk to each other, things look very different. That is the opportunity this climate conference presents, because the other 172 will not want to put up with the vague, half-baked nonsense the G-20 club has dished out to them.”

The Times (GB) /

Hot air will bring a cold war

Major conflicts loom if the international community fails to agree on joint measures, warns British ex-foreign secretary William Hague in The Times:

“Until now, the question has been 'how can our relations with other states help with climate change?' Increasingly, however, the question will become 'how does climate change affect our relations with other states?' The answer, depressingly, will be that a world without credible agreement and action on climate becomes a more fractious, divided and dangerous world - at least until sufficient global consensus emerges to pull international relations out of a downward spiral.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Beijing putting its money where its mouth is

China may be absent but it is pursuing a clear strategy, Corriere della Sera points out:

“Xi interprets the ecological challenge in geostrategic terms, as a competition for dominance over the technologies of the future. China has already conquered world supremacy when it comes to solar panels, wind energy and batteries; now it's aiming for a semi-monopoly over rare earths and metals that are essential for the production of electric cars. ... Xi is sticking to his ambitious plans for nuclear power, which he sees as a renewable energy source in its own right. ... His physical absence from Glasgow betrays his displeasure with the sermons or apocalyptic slogans of Western governments.”

Expresso (PT) /

We all have a responsibility here

Expresso publishes an appeal by UN General Secretary António Guterres:

“All countries need to realize that the old, carbon-burning model of development is a death sentence for their economies and our planet. We need decarbonization now, across every sector in every country. We need to shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and tax pollution, not people. We need to put a price on carbon, and channel that back towards resilient infrastructures and jobs. And we need to phase-out coal. ... People rightly expect their governments to lead. But we all have a responsibility to safeguard our collective future.”

Le HuffPost (FR) /

A dishonest game of poker

The speculation and mutual sizing up so typical of such conferences is very detrimental, says Le Huffpost:

“Each country will try to give a little while keeping its trump cards: a big coal producer (like China) is not about to propose reducing coal production because it doesn't want to undermine its labour market. So at the negotiating table everyone will try to protect themselves while observing what cards their neighbours are playing. Only then will they decide whether or not to follow suit. The result is promises and, above all, actions that are far too timid in view of what is at stake.”

Pravda (SK) /

Without political will, the climate will tip

Pravda looks to Glasgow with concern:

“Two years ago, politicians, companies and the general public sent an angry Swedish girl 'back to school' and told her to leave the threat of global warming to experts. Today, at best they are silent, at worst they continue to clear the Amazon rainforest. In Glasgow, there will now be talk of an 'existential threat'. But it is unlikely that the biggest industrial polluters will show the political will to avert the threat. We must take to heart the words addressed to the conference by the pope, among others, and make radical changes.”

De Morgen (BE) /

What we need is optimism

We need climate optimism, De Morgen stresses:

“Governments must create policies capable of implementing the nice plans [of the EU]. There is considerable fear that people will resist. In every country and province, a populist formation is ready to reap the harvest of resistance. Today's energy crisis and the resulting price inflation are an important test. If governments now fail to convincingly protect their citizens from the largest financial and economic risks of an energy transition, confidence that such policies can succeed in the future will melt - along with the ice of the poles.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Don't always talk about the last chance

Even late or small steps to limit climate change are bettr than none at all, The Irish Times puts in:

“If we frame Cop26 as the last best chance for change, we risk dooming it to failure before it has even commenced. Instead, we should see it as the latest staging post on the journey to a cleaner, more sustainable world. Viewing Cop26 as our last chance also misunderstands the nature of the climate challenge. There is never a last chance, a cliff edge, or a point of no return. Every fraction of a degree of warming matters. Every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted matters. Every action we take - or don’t take - matters.”

The Economist (GB) /

The only way change can happen

The climate summit should not be cynically dismissed as futile, The Economist urges:

“The Paris agreement committed all parties, rich and poor, to keep the rise in Earth's temperature since the mid-19th century well below 2C. Glasgow will bring fresh national pledges ... The main reason the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the COP matter is that science, diplomacy, activism, and public opinion underpin the process, and it is the best mechanism to identify a fundamental truth: The dream of a planet of almost 8bn people all living in material comfort will be unachievable if it is based on an economy powered by coal, oil, and natural gas.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Making the carbon footprint of companies transparent

Economist Hélène Rey calls in Les Echos for a standardised system for measuring the impact of companies on the climate:

“It would be a major step forward if the CO2 emissions of companies were measured. For the market to work and for investors to put their capital into the most exemplary companies, their direct and indirect emissions must be known. The IFRS Foundation, the oversight body of the IASB [International Accounting Standards Board, an independent body that develops guidelines and rules for corporate financial statements], could simply establish a sister body to the IASB. Its task would be to make the recorded direct and indirect emissions of companies as transparent and comparable as possible.”

Právo (CZ) /

Don't deepen divide between the rich and the poor

Europe must be careful not to put too much pressure on the rest of the world with its insistence on renewable energies, warns Právo:

“The West wants the developing countries to commit to the energy transition as well. In other words, these countries that, with their rapid economic growth, also emit pollutants. But they can justifiably question how effective, reliable and expensive renewable energy sources are. ... High energy prices can trigger political earthquakes, lead to political instability and deepen the divide between rich and poor parts of the world.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Developing countries need effective support now

Kathimerini's US correspondent Katerina Sokou says Europe is not decisive for Glasgow becoming a success:

“The EU may lead the agenda by insisting on a rapid energy transition, but the US contribution is crucial, not only because the US has the second highest emissions in the world, but also as means of putting pressure on the world's other major economies, China, Russia, and India to take the necessary measures to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Geopolitical interests aside, however, it would also be easier to reach an agreement if the industrialised countries fulfilled their own commitment to providing developing countries with 100 billion dollars annually for the energy transition.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

We live in the boomercene

Climate activist Dominika Lasota criticises Poland's role in climate policy in Krytyka Polityczna:

“The Polish government is on the side of those who block any change in the design of climate policy. We are one of the most coal-dependent countries in Europe and, with the Belchatow power plant, we operate the largest climate polluter on the continent. ... This situation is no coincidence: we live in the 'boomercene', in an age when those in power are only interested in profit and economic growth, popularity, and short-sighted political games. ... They are creating a system that is destabilising our climate, driving fragile ecosystems to the brink of collapse, pitting us against each other and crushing us.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Sabotage may be the only option

Political scientist Kiza Magendane wonders in his column in NRC Handelsblad what a new agreement is supposed to achieve:

“The ruling elites in our fossil capitalist world order have mastered the art of putting wonderful agreements on paper, only to shamelessly disregard them afterwards. ... If for decades the institutions have had little success in addressing one of the greatest threats to the continued existence of living beings, shouldn't their existence be open to discussion? ... In the highly controversial book 'How to Blow Up a Pipeline,' Andreas Malm emphasises that sabotage is the most obvious strategy for climate activism. To the ears of the fossil fuel elite, nothing is louder than the bang of burning fossil fuel assets.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Netherlands should pioneer climate debate

The North Sea will rise more than previously thought due to climate change, according to Dutch calculations. De Volkskrant warns:

“The Netherlands is among the biggest climate victims. It would be logical for the Netherlands to become a pioneer in the global climate debate. But so far the opposite is the case. The Netherlands is one of the largest CO2 emitters in Europe. ... As a remedy against fatalism, more and more politicians - particularly on the right - are dreaming of climate adaptation. ... We could build a huge island in the North Sea to protect our coasts. ... But it would be even better if national pride were also directed towards making the Dutch economy more sustainable.”

The Independent (GB) /

Climate crisis must be on the curriculum

The current education system does not adequately prepare students for their future in times of climate change, complains The Independent:

“The climate crisis will affect everyone, whether they are a builder or a banker, a carer or a pharmacist. This means that climate education must be intertwined into every subject in a way that is accessible to all. Climate education needs to be extended to include knowledge about how to stop and abate the climate emergency and ecological crisis, deliver climate justice and provide support for students to deal with eco and climate anxiety - something which climate education will also mitigate, as students will be empowered with the information needed to tackle the issue.”

El Confidencial (ES) /

Use European climate power

Historian Susi Dennison of the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations writes in El Confidencial that the EU should assume a leading role in the energy transition:

“Further along in transition than many others, it is able to lead by example, to share and market its experiences. ... The EU is not yet a geopolitical heavyweight, at the level of the US, able to bring a credible threat of using all aspects of its economic power collectively, to reinforce its negotiating position at COP26. ... European climate power is instead about the ability to deliver change at a more mechanical level, through the EU’s interactions with other countries.”

Le Temps (CH) /

The EU must set an example

In a guest article for Le Temps, former EU Commissioner on Climate Action Connie Hedegaard also stresses the central role played by Europe:

“If COP26 is to become the moment when the world truly decides to act together against the greatest threat to humanity, the EU must lead by example. The EU is the richest trading community in the world, a firm diplomatic force and a prime example of how much tolerance and fairness can achieve. If it does not assume a key role, COP26 will fail. Everyone around the world will benefit if the EU, its leaders and its diplomatic structures act now to avert disaster.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Energy transition won't be smooth

The ambitious climate goals will be difficult to implement, Corriere del Ticino notes:

“The intermittent nature of renewable energies cannot guarantee a continuous power supply. And they require enormous investments for which someone has to pay. As we've seen in Germany, even coal-fired power plants - which cause the most environmental pollution - have had to be used to avoid power cuts. So it's not surprising that in view of this impasse, both gas and nuclear power plants are being put back into operation. ... Many countries, from France and Britain to China and India, have decided to rely on nuclear energy to achieve their energy transition.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

Lobbies are blocking the transition

It's simply a lie to say that renewable energies cannot cover energy needs, Il Manifesto argues:

“Renewable energies are not only adequate, they're also cheaper. If so far no country has decided to make the transition that can lead to 100 percent coverage of energy needs with renewable energies in a few years' time, it's because many interests are standing in the way. ... The interests of the shareholders in [Italian oil and energy company] Eni, who want to continue using gas-fired power plants in whose profits they have a share. ... In Germany, those who profit from the gigantic agreements with Russia; in France the interests that stem from the largest network of nuclear power plants in Europe.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Greenwashing by municipalities

Copenhagen is giving itself three years to become the world's first CO2-free capital. But to achieve this it is building wind and solar farms in other municipalities and taking the credit for the carbon dioxide reductions - as are the municipalities where the plants are located. Jyllands-Posten criticises this practice:

“In the business world, when companies make themselves out to be more climate-friendly than they actually are it's called greenwashing. ... If four municipalities knowingly do the same, it is in fact climate fraud, because no elected politicians have gone to the trouble of making a fuss about the sugar-coated CO2 accounts. ... Since these municipalities are apparently unable to produce accurate CO2 readings, parliament must intervene to ensure a fair municipal climate balance. ”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Try again please

What the UN Environment Programme report reveals makes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sceptical:

“Politicians proclaim long-term decarbonisation targets, but in reality the policies of the major producers of emissions in particular translate into a sharp increase in the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. What a farce! Among other countries, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States are named in the report. Germany, a lignite producer, also comes under fire. ... Many citizens are sceptical, many governments lack leadership. This can be explained at the political level. But global warming cannot be limited to the necessary minimum like this.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Too many lack the will to change

What the individual states have announced so far does not bode well for the conference, the Irish Examiner criticises:

“The suggestion that Chinese leader Xi Jinping may not attend COP26 in a fortnight's time will be a significant setback for the summit's chances of success in setting new and even more rigorous climate targets. Emissions from China exceed all of the world's developed nations combined. ... Fewer than half of the G20 countries have published their planned targets, known as nationally defined contributions, before the conference starts. Let us hope this is not yet another form of brinksmanship alongside those we are currently witnessing in respect of global warming.”

The Times (GB) /

Industry is on the right path

With new incentives for cutting emissions the summit could be as big a success as the Paris 2015 one, says The Times:

“The automotive industry, for example, has switched almost all of its investment to electric vehicles. The global steel industry has set out a clear path to net zero by 2050. And the financial sector is increasingly refusing to fund companies that do not have clear emissions reduction plans. There is much the summit can do to accelerate this process. Just as the Paris accords triggered a tide of investment into green technologies such as wind and solar, so robust commitments in Glasgow would give businesses the confidence to invest in new projects.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The old man and the sea

That US President Joe Biden seems ready to cancel large tranches of the planned investments in clean energy due to pressure from within his own party is a bad sign, Corriere della Sera comments:

“In the corridors of Congress in Washington, some compare Biden to Santiago, the protagonist of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. One day, the old and experienced fisherman made the biggest catch of his life. He tied the fish to the hull of his boat, but all that was left when he reached land was a huge fish bone. Sharks had devoured all the flesh on the way. Biden's big fish is the 3.5 trillion dollar manoeuvre, a public intervention unprecedented in American history. The sharks? The left has no doubts: [Democratic] Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Perhaps only a major disaster will prompt action

Columnist Bert Wagendorp complains about the attitude in international politics in De Volkskrant:

“We are familiar with the principle because it's the same with Dutch farmers: Climate measures are fine, but not at the expense of our income. As a result nothing is done, or at least far too little. Forest fires and floods are becoming more frequent, and we all know why. But we don't want to admit it because the long-term consequences are unimaginable. ... Perhaps it will take a real catastrophe to shake everyone up - something like New York being swallowed up. ... There is still hope. But we are slowly getting to the point where we must hope for a miracle.”