The media outlets of the world have turned their attention to the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, to see what progress the world’s political leaders will make toward addressing our climate change crisis. Yet even though the conference hasn’t begun, we already know how much progress they’ll make. The answer? Nowhere near enough!
While some governments have made new pledges of steeper reductions in fossil fuel emissions for coming decades, these new pledges would together produce only one-seventh of the cuts needed this decade to help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), above preindustrial levels. Anything beyond that, scientists say, will increase the quantity and severity of deadly storms, heat waves, crop failures, water shortages, species extinctions and ecosystem collapse.
And we’ve already seen that some governments around the world are going to the conference while backtracking on previous (usually modest) pledges and downplaying the severity of the problem in order to protect their nation’s business interests. We know they can’t be trusted.
But what, you ask, would it really take to stay below that 1.5-degree Celsius threshold? According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, all of these things would have to happen, and maybe more:
- By 2030, electric vehicles would have to make up more than 50 percent of new car sales globally (up from 5 percent today).
- By 2035, wealthy countries would have to shut down virtually all fossil-fuel power plants in favor of cleaner technologies like wind, solar or nuclear power.
- By 2040, all of the world’s remaining coal plants would have to be retired or retrofitted with technology to capture their carbon emissions. New technologies would be needed to clean up sectors like air and auto travel.
Let’s be real. None of these things can or will be accomplished within a capitalist political-economy concerned solely with profit. No oil company, auto company, or energy company that has made billions from oil, coal and cars will give those up. They simply won’t let it happen.
The lesson here is that we can’t rely on capitalist governments or capitalist corporations to save us from the environmental catastrophe they’ve created. So, we shouldn’t expect much from COP26.
If we really want to save life on our planet, including our species, from tremendous suffering and potential extinction, we need to take matters into our own hands. We’ll need to take power and organize the world for our needs, not for profits. We have little time left.