World leaders have gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, to take part in the COP26 climate summit. The summit comes six years after more than 190 countries signed the Paris Agreement to limit rising global temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with the aim of reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius. The two-week event, from October 31 to November 12, will see leaders from over 190 countries, thousands of negotiators, and countless environmentalists endeavor to draft a global response to the threat of climate change.
More nations than ever are pledging to reduce emissions, move away from coal, eliminate deforestation, and deliver money to help developing nations adapt to climate change. Environmental groups and developing nations aren’t optimistic.
“Our people are watching, and our people are taking note,” declared Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados. “Can there be peace and prosperity if one-third of the world lives in prosperity and two-thirds live underseas and face calamitous threats to our wellbeing?”
Samoan environmentalist Brianna Fruean addressed similar concerns while recognizing the perseverance of her fellow Pacific Islanders.
“We are not just victims to this crisis,” Fruean proclaimed. “We have been resilient beacons of home. Pacific youth have rallied behind the cry: ‘We are not drowning. We are fighting.’ This is our warrior cry to the world. We are not drowning. We are fighting. This is my message from earth to COP.”
Poet and activist Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner also delivered a rousing speech as a climate envoy for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a sprawling nation of more than 1,200 low-lying atolls and islands in the Pacific Ocean. Her words beautifully highlight the plight of those fighting for their homelands’ very existence.
Leaders from the largest nations, and worst offenders, showed up to COP26 as well — most notably the United States after being absent for the last four years. President Biden promised to show the world that the US is “leading by the power of our example.”
The absences of President Xi Jinping of China, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil were notable.
Talks will continue through next week when, hopefully, some concrete steps forward are put in place. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated the urgency for such measures.
“Enough of treating nature like a toilet,” Guterres proclaimed. “Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper.”
Perhaps Swedish activist Greta Thunberg summed up the call to action best with a retweeted appeal for supporters to sign an open letter accusing world leaders of betrayal.
“This is not a drill,” Thunberg wrote. “It’s code red for the Earth. Millions will suffer as our planet is devastated — a terrifying future that will be created, or avoided, by the decisions you make. You have the power to decide.”