HomeOpinion & AnalysisClimate anxiety and COP26, the world in panic mode

Climate anxiety and COP26, the world in panic mode


By Peter Makwanya

SINCE the world is not keen on taking action on climate impacts, officials meet once again in Glasgow for the annual United Nations Conference of Parties (COP26).

For two weeks, the world will take stock of the global climate action strategies.

With the climate crisis in the public domain, ravaging the landscape and caressing the skies, every nation is overwhelmed hence, the unfolding drama, grandstanding and reactions in role-playing is not surprising. Judging by the current euphoria, one wonders why the world’s environment has degenerated to such an extent. We live in a poisoned world that requires not only spiritual healing, but cleansing.

Sometimes developing countries forget that they are required to adapt faster as they are faced with so many climate complexities. The idea of always saying, developing countries haven’t contributed much in terms of emissions resulting in global warming do not make them serious and proactive stakeholders besides being perennial crybabies. Their burden of coping with the effects of climate change should be matched with commitment and motivation to achieve resilience.

What is more surprising is that developing countries are always pushing for bailouts, they do not talk about corruption, abuse of funds, natural resources and human rights and think the world is blind. Yes, developing countries are doing little to contribute to the climate crisis, but they also need to demonstrate that they are accountable, innovative and think outside the realm of donated climate finances.

While rich polluting nations are at fault for releasing too much carbon into the atmosphere, developing countries should be transparent in the manner in which they use donor funds towards mitigation and resilience building. Developing countries need to work hard to improve their low adaptive capacities and high vulnerabilities.

Developing countries’ levels of climate paradox is nauseating and it is high time they attended to glaring structural gaps and lack of seriousness. Going to Glasgow in large numbers is not the seriousness that the world would love to see. The euphoria of travelling should be matched with resilience efforts on the ground.

Yes, they may rush to COP26 in their dozens, but when they come back, the first thing to greet them will be their poor resilience-building efforts.

Unfolding events spell out glaring climate gaps, omissions and emissions the world has never witnessed. While COP26 is procedural as a climate ritual, Glasgow has become a place of choice not entirely for the love of climate, but otherwise. It has also become a place where overnight climate heroes have been hatched and readied to foreground pretence and background nothing, but the whole truth so that it shall never come out of their bag of poli-tricks.

When it is time for real action in individual countries, climate change is handled like it never exists or just like any other phenomenon, but when gatherings such as COP26 approach, no one wants to be left behind. Everyone wants to be seen to be climate relevant. Climate change planning should be ongoing, assuring, human-specific and needs-driven not sporadic, haphazard or absolute nothing.

Stakeholders should be worried about how negative effects of climate change are impacting on human health and well-being, the environment, policy implications and widely acclaimed, but unachievable international benchmarks. For this global gathering to be successful, it means from the Paris Agreement, the climate crisis should have been treated as an emergency just like the COVID-19 pandemic. How is Glasgow going to interrogate issues of unregulated and accelerating consumerism where the massive overproduction of emissions, unwanted goods and products appear to be skyrocketing.

One of the main polluters China, with net emissions of 4,5 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, has indicated that it has nothing to offer at the COP26. China has now taken the path previously taken by the US during the reign of Donald Trump. These are climate deceiving games that major polluting nations play in order to shortchange the world. One wonders what Africa have to say when its favourite (China) is taking the whole world for granted.

As the drama continues at COP26, just like many other gathering before Glasgow is already being characterised by greenwashing talk, familiar with propagating linguistic tools that hide the real deal behind climate emissions, pledges and commitments.

Africa seems to be not sure of how to handle the environmental injustices currently unfolding in its backyard. The continent is caught up in the oil and gas contradictions and dilemma. Cases in point are deforestation and logging in the Congo River Basin, oil and gas exploration in the Okavango Delta, exploration of gas and oil deposits in Uganda and the Zambezi Valley, Chinese displacing local communities and climate refugees, among others.

In this regard, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is quoted by the media saying: “Africa can’t sacrifice its future prosperity for Western climate goals. The continent should balance its energy mix, not rush straight towards renewables.”

In this regard, many developing countries are not subscribing to the concept of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, with regard to the role it plays in conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

One of the interesting scenarios at COP26 is the number of youth activists and groups attending the conference adding their voices to those of emitting corporations and global bullies. If the roadmap is Agenda 2063, then it becomes clear why it is significant to invest in youth because by 2063, many of the people who are currently driving COP will not be around.

The intricate nature of UNCOP negotiations is characterised by blocs such as G7, G20, G77, BRICS, OPEC, among others, which are trying to push their own ideologies rather than that of the environment. This  is causing citizens to worry about their state of minds and health well-being vis-a-vis climate distress rather than engaging in real climate actions and climate-proofing issues.

In this regard, through COPs, citizens can only hope that the world can be better by putting its citizens at the centre of these global climate change negotiations. This can be done through commitment to resilience and mitigation programmes in developing countries where proactive planning, managing disasters, participating in low-carbon transitions and managing climate finances should be key. Otherwise UNCOP26 risks to be another global talkshow to calm nerves and an opportunity to shop and go back home with blank mindsets and nothing new.

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