Zero hope

I stare at the forest dominating my home. I breathe good air. I think of the trees and plants that are so much the face of Catalonia. I cannot see the coastal refineries around which so much life revolves, depends.

So here we go again. Another climate summit. Hope springs eternal, but I shudder to think what will be said and done this time. Will they ever do enough? Or will it be further, damning evidence of a generation’s addiction and abject dereliction?

COP26 convenes in Britain this month. It is not one more climate summit. It is everything, a watershed moment. It is our one world needing to face up to a stark reality and will be, must be, life changing. It will build on the landmark international accord signed in Paris in 2015, a commitment by 195 nations to combat climate change and adapt to its impacts, with clear targets. That coming together was a huge advance in aspiration and cooperation. But.... greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures continue to rise. The words fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas do not appear in the Paris agreement even though it is accepted that to meet the Paris goals the vast majority of hydrocarbons need to stay in the ground.

Why am I so negative? So far nothing has added up.

The blunt realities are that countries remain economically reliant on fossil fuels and producers want to exploit their reserves quickly while they still can; that COP26 is a gathering of the powerful, funded by those with the most to lose; that making the fast and deep changes to the unsustainable life as we now know it urgently requires a quantum leap in public understanding of - and support for - the need to radically rethink and adapt, to brace for the shockwave of reforms for all of us, the families, communities and nations currently dependent on oil.

We need to watch and listen so attentively to what is said and what is on the table (and what is not) at COP26, for we are just about out of chances.

The mainstream media will again miss the point and obsess about personalities. Thank your god Trump is absent. Britain’s populist prime minister, however, will gush and blither, wallowing in the glare. Prepare for further efforts by him to undermine any perception of reality regarding meaningful policy. He is a master of gaslighting – oh the irony – but keep an eye on whether he allows the vast Cambo oil field off the Shetland Isles to go ahead.

For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on Earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’.

Yes, the Paris commitment to aim to keep warming increases to 1.5 degrees is critically important because every fractional rise will result in the loss of many lives and livelihoods. But were they being realistic? And one of the key things that worries me is the term “net zero” now embedded in planning.

Do you think it means zero emissions? It is alarming how many people do.

Net zero means cutting emissions, yes, but by no means stopping. It means balancing ongoing emissions by yet to be developed, untested carbon capture technologies as well as tree planting etc. Really? It is hugely dangerous to assume we can design our way out of this. It feeds complacency and inaction while levels continue to rise and forests continue to be felled. We continue to sleep walk. Net zero is about protecting business as usual, not the climate and the planet.

New research by the International Monetary Fund estimates global fossil fuel subsidies are about $6 trillion annually, up from $5.2 trillion in 2017. That is the reality.

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