At the end of October, COP 26, the next world climate summit, will start in Glasgow. A year later than planned, the organizers – the UN Climate Change Council, Great Britain and Italy – had to postpone the meeting of the 195 signatory states to the Paris Agreement (2015), which was scheduled for 2020, because of the pandemic. Unfortunate enough, the last global climate conference COP 25 to date took place in Madrid at the end of 2019. At that time it was still considered a success that the attacks of the deniers of climate change under the leadership of the unspeakable Donald Trump could be repulsed and the treaty of Paris received. In the meantime, the governments of all signatory states seem to be aware of the seriousness of the situation, combined with the certainty that climate erosion will continue unstoppably for the time being. There are only a few years left to counteract the constantly accelerated climate change triggered by today’s modes of production and life, so that the warming of the earth’s atmosphere is limited to 1.5 to 2 degrees and the planet does not become uninhabitable in large regions.
Minus 55 percent
There was movement in the run-up to the Glasgow Conference, at least. The 12th Petersberg Climate Dialogue brought together heads of government and environment ministers from over 40 countries at the beginning of May. A welcome opportunity for the German government to present more precisely defined climate targets following the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. At the same time, one delegation after the other in Petersburg, especially those of the US government, announced that they would have a climate-neutral economy by the middle of the century at the latest. Angela Merkel, who was hailed as climate chancellor years ago, was under heavy pressure. Many international partners expected the commitment to decisive action and saw themselves disappointed, once again, more was expected of Germany.
At the beginning of August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its sixth report on the state of affairs (AR6) and insisted that in 30 to 40 years we must join forces to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to such an extent that the climate targets agreed in the Paris Agreement are achieved. It is hard to assume that anyone has carefully read the 4,000-page bundle, a dossier of scientific findings on the state of the global climate. But the pressure is there, nobody can ignore this expertise, especially since a growing number of NGOs and climate movements are making use of it.
The EU has now launched its own climate law, the Commission and Parliament agreed, and the European Council adopted the ambitious project at the end of June. This sets standards for a continental climate policy. Their aim is to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent compared to the period 1990-2030, to achieve climate neutrality in the entire Union by 2050, and to have permanently falling emissions thereafter. Inventories for 2030 and 2040 have been agreed with adequately quantified specifications. No EU country can evade them.
Another good news: Glasgow will take place without the notorious cross-drivers and brakes from the camp of deniers and belittlers of climate change. Numerous industrial associations have swung into the line of strict climate policy, in Germany almost a miracle after 16 years of eternal postponement in the Merkel style. Even if the German Chancellor is still there in Scotland, she can no longer play her traditional role as moderator of a minimal consensus. Boris Johnson will chair and stage. When it comes to full-bodied promises, he is unbeatable. Incidentally, the agenda of COP 26 ensures that Merkel’s navigation on sight as an expression of political inaction in the current situation is unlikely to convince anyone.
There will be toads in Glasgow for German climate policy anyway, because who still takes the Germans’ favorite taboos seriously? Neither the taboo of atomic energy nor the confusion about the coal phase-out nor the sensitivities when it comes to wind and solar energy. If the Chinese, Americans or French want it, they will quickly show the Germans how to stop climate change. In the face of skyrocketing oil, gas and coal prices, it doesn’t take much persuasion to drive an energy turnaround. Where the Germans were once the front runners in environmental technologies, it has long been the turn of others. And they won’t wait.
There is a huge agenda to be worked out at the Glasgow Summit. It can prove to be an advantage that, not least because of the EU, climate targets have now been defined more precisely and given time limits. The necessary technologies are available or in the development stage. Nobody in Glasgow needs to get involved in an academic dispute about the right mix of instruments. Everything that works must be used.
An impending climate collapse can only avert a global climate policy in which everyone is involved. Because the world is as unequal as it is, some states and regions have to lead the way. If the poorest countries on earth are to protect their nature in order to spare the population of the richest countries at least a part of impending natural disasters, they must be helped. They should be compensated for not cutting down their forests, polluting their waters and not (further) destroying their environment. This will provoke an argument among the intransigent, who should raise the required sums, who pays the climate mine and takes what share? Can you effectively ask the biggest climate sinners, above all the USA, to pay? Can Brazil be persuaded not to continually ruin the Amazon rainforests? Can the EU initiate the necessary compensation within Europe? Without the big nations and climate sinners – without China and Russia, without India and the USA – it remains hopeless. The UN will have to prove itself as a moderator of worldwide cooperation.