Russia and China are the rebellious students on climate issues who do not take final exams. That may be the summary of what lies ahead at the 2021 Climate Summit (COP26) that kicks off this Monday in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
After a year of hiatus – in 2020 there was no due to the pandemic and the one in 2019 was held in Madrid – the ‘great’ debate on climate issues returns, but it does so with the sit-in of the two most relevant leaders: Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin . They represent two of the countries that pollute the most in absolute terms (along with the US and India), but they do not want to sit at the tables destined to seek solutions. In that context, what is COP26 really and what will it do?
What is COP26 and what are its objectives?
The official name is the United Nations Conference on Climate Change and 25,000 people are expected to attend from all corners of the planet, being one of the most massive events to be held when the world is still emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.
There will be delegations from 200 countries and the objectives are many (and not all simple): limit the temperature to less than 2 degrees and if it can be less than 1.5 and reduce greenhouse gases to zero by 2030 are the premises under which progress is made. In Glasgow, for the first time, the steps that countries have taken along these two paths will be analyzed.
Furthermore, concrete measures are expected to be taken to protect the communities and natural habitats most affected by climate change. Of course, this requires that at least $ 100 billion in climate finance be raised every year. Leaders insist that these goals can only be met with close collaboration between citizens, businesses and governments.
Why won’t Xi and Putin be there?
Beyond the content, the quote is also a geopolitical tug of war. For this reason, in such a tense scenario, Russia and China want to keep up with the other bloc, formed by the European Union and the United States. The absence of the two presidents is a clear message that Moscow and Beijing are not interested in advancing the climate fight – or not at the same pace as the rest .
China, in fact, will send vice president in charge of the environment, Zhao Yingmin, to the summit, and Russia also plans to have government emissaries, but not top-tier ones.
Organizers and NGOs are clear that COP26 will lose part of its raison d’être if both Russia and China are not seriously involved in it. What both countries want is to get away from the pressure of the rest to assume more ambitious goals in the fight against climate change. In the case of Putin, in addition, the debate was settled with a brief phrase: “The climate fight is one of our great priorities.”
But he doesn’t want to make any more commitments. The Kremlin, for the rest, is silent. And keeping quiet for an answer, not going to Glasgow and not participating in the debate seems to leave the rest of the countries in a weak situation.
What will the EU look for?
“The United Nations climate conference will be the moment of truth because the current commitments are not enough to keep the world on track towards the goal that we all set for ourselves in Paris, ” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula, just a few days ago. von der Leyen, who wants the EU’s role at the summit to be very active.
“I can guarantee that the EU will do everything possible to make COP26 a success,” he declared, being aware that the ecological transition is one of the priorities of the Community Executive (as has been shown, for example, with the European Green Deal package) .
Precisely in this scenario, the Union wants to position itself at the summit as a “climate power” and thus lead, ahead of the United States, the message that it is necessary to fulfill the commitments reached: move from words (and signatures) to the facts. ” The EU is in a position to assume this role in the front line because these years it has shown its commitment,” commented Commission sources consulted for 20 minutes . Already before COP25 in 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution declaring a “climate and environmental emergency” in Europe and globally.
And Spain in particular?
A priori, Spain seems well positioned in terms of climate. The president of COP26, Alok Sharma, said months ago in an interview with Efe that the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition approved by the Government shows its “leadership” and described it as a “historic moment.” The objective of Spain is precisely to reinforce that place at the head of the cartel .
he country is seen as “a key partner” for present and future challenges . In addition, Spain, which comes within the framework of the EU, declared the climate emergency more than a year ago and approved the Climate Law, the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan or the Just Transition Strategy.
Where are the biggest stumbling blocks?
There are two: the danger of falling into generalities and purely political impulses, which is what happens with Russia and China. The stumbling block happens because any agreement that is reached within the summit will be born ‘lame’ because it does not have the approval of Beijing and Moscow . That two powers are left out of the wheel can make the measures that are passed almost irrelevant. Who assures that these two countries will comply with them if they have not even negotiated them?
Does this summit serve any purpose?
It is to be hoped that yes, precisely because the message is that: that concrete facts begin to be seen. Moreover, the great goal of the summit is to see how far the countries have advanced in the commitments made before putting new ones on the table.
Having such a full agenda it will be difficult to go to the concrete, but the leaders and the organizers believe that after a year of ‘pause’ due to the pandemic it is necessary that the speech is no longer something vacuous and without specifics.