COP26 and the sustainability of our planet Earth

Friday November 12 2021
Samia pic
By Freddy Macha

We have seen images of presidents and prime ministers hugging and shaking hands and pledging a safer earth, during the Glasgow COP26. Add eco-protesters led by the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg.

COP stands for “Conference of the Parties”, a creation of the United Nations. In 1994 there was a United Nations conference that set up an agreement to bring change to the way we handle climate. A thread from the legendary 1992 Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit.

More than 100 leaders had congregated in Brazil “to address urgent problems of environmental protection and socioeconomic development”.

Thirty years on, our Earth, our planet, has become worse.

And so the United Nations declared the current decade (up to 2030) to be “a decade for action”. This action is necessary because (as we have seen in previous articles on this chat) our planet is heating up. Sea levels rising. Icecaps melting and more “extreme weather, floods and forest fires” across the globe. This is not news. Ironically. We are all aware that the time to reduce carbon and gas emissions is short.

Addressing the Glasgow conference, President Samia Suluhu Hassan was quoted by Africa News calling on developed countries “to fulfil climate finance goals of donating $100 billion by 2025 to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement”. The Paris agreement was a result of COP21 in 2015. Mama Samia said Tanzania is doing what was agreed, but the biggest onus is on the giants. Big industrial nations. Meantime, she reminded that Tanzania is impacted by climate changes, e.g. loss of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro (“our pride”) and temperature hikes in Zanzibar.

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We are all impacted. We ALL need to act.

Generally, there are four strands that affect this super topic. Big nations, big business, activism and individuals.

Massive economies such as China, India, Russia and United States, which also lead in tech, are equally the biggest polluters. How did the Glasgow conference address that?

There were words and calls and critics.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, declared: “When it comes to tackling climate change, words without action, without deeds, are absolutely pointless.”

Leaders and the rich were chided for riding private planes to the significant gathering. That pollutes. But then you ask, how does a busy politician (or business heavyweight) attend a conference and return home quickly to urgent chores? Private means.

Mr Johnson’s spokesperson argued that the plane used “produces 50 percent less CO2 emissions than some of the larger aeroplanes”.

And Amazon’s billionaire boss Jeff Bezos? He flew to the event in a chartered plane. Other rich have been accused of using private yachts that pollute both air and sea.

So there are the politics , the practicalities and the hypocrisy.

This all ushers in activism.

Bring in 18-year-old Greta Thunberg.

The Swedish environmentalist has been challenging politicians and world leaders to do more than just talk. Wikipedia describes her “School Strike for Climate” as a student movement. They usually miss Friday classes to protest and “demand action from political leaders”.

Without further details, what Greta is showing is the growing trend among our youth and that everyone has to get involved. Climate change is not just for politicians and eco-militants, but for now and the FUTURE.

Criticising her efforts, nonetheless, Sunday Times columnist Jeremy Clarkson advised Greta Thunberg and other climate protesters like Extinction Rebellion to go to China and India where pollution levels are highest on earth.

Clarkson: “That’s what these protesters need to get...you have to be surrounded by people who don’t like you. You have to talk to Fox News, not CNN or the BBC. Look at Gandhi and Mandela. They were prepared to undergo unimaginable hardships to further the cause in which they believed...”

He cited the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire in 1963 in protest against the persecution of monks.

What about the rest of us?

We shave, wash clothes, eat and make our beds. We clean, repair cars, houses, roads and buildings. But what about parent earth?

Some of us drive. Do we understand idling? Are we aware that leaving cars idling contributes to pollution? Do we use low-emission cars?

Consciousness at the individual level is important for the survival of our planet.

How about Big Business?

An article by Ming Lius reported in London’s Daily Mail that in November 2020, De Beers , the famous mining company, launched “Building Forever” as a far reaching campaign of 12 goals that is linked to the United Nations Sustainable goals. Among those goals is “responsible mining”.

While protesters and politicians and businesses are talking, and the United Nations leads, the burning question is what about us, individually? Are we thinking 200 years ahead?