The COP26 Climate Conference

The COP26 Climate Conference
As the COP26 Climate Conference convenes, Matthew Hahn, our FHCLP Climate Officer sets out the case for urgent personal and political action without further delay

There is widespread agreement that human activity is causing the climate to change.  
There also seems to be growing acceptance that human activity needs to change in order for the world to avert even greater damage to itself and to mitigate the changes already occurring.  Where there seems to be less consensus on is the pace of that change and on the ‘othering’ of change – that is who needs to change the most – that now seems to be most contentious.    

The UK government has plans for 2030, 2040 and 2050.  But the planet is burning and flooding now. So we need to the change to occur now.  And we now have a basic, if imperfect, template of how to accomplish this: with the Corona Virus, the world shut down to attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus.  There can certainly be argument over the way it was done, its success rate & the lack of solidarity, but we now know the world can be shut down if deemed necessary. 

I am advocating for a worldwide coordinated response to deal with the changing climate as my fear is that the Corona virus crisis will pale in comparison to what the climate crisis will bring.  
We no longer have the luxury of leaving the hard choices to future generations – we have seen the great acceleration of natural disasters happening now: wildfires in Canada, floods in the UK and US, 50+ degree Celsius temperatures in places that have never seen such high temperatures.  
So far industrialized countries have refused to take the necessary responsibility & actions over the past 50 years when mitigation could have been far less drastic.  So, unfortunately, we have reached a point where niceties are no longer useful and drastic measures are now needed.    All of us need to advocate that our government and businesses must stop polluting and we also need to make hard personal choices to reduce our climate footprint – to ‘vote with our feet’ and stop consuming products from companies that refuse to mitigate their impact.  

US Climate Envoy John Kerry is wrong to suggest that those of us in industrialized countries don’t ‘need to change [our] consumption patterns.’[1]  We must.  He is also wrong to suggest that countries like China needs to ‘step up when it comes to fossil fuel use,’ when, per capita, China consume much less than countries like the US & the UK [let alone because they have only been industrialized for the past 30 years whereas the US & the UK have been contributing to the climate crisis for the past 150 + years].  

Of course, all countries need to reduce their carbon footprint, but the industrialized countries must lead by example: putting it right in our countries before asking others to clean up the mess we have, on the whole, made. Boris Johnson hypocritically tells other leaders to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels whilst angling to opening a coal mine in the UK.  
This ‘do as I say and not as I do’ hypocrisy is no longer acceptable.  It is a hard, but necessary, message to those of us in the developed world to ‘Consume Less Stuff.’  We cannot rely on technology such as ocean destroying batteries[2] to save us from climate catastrophe whilst carrying on with our lives as rabid consumers.  We should not tell others what do if we are not ourselves willing to change our own habits.  


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-57135506

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/29/is-deep-sea-mining-a-cure-for-the-climate-crisis-or-a-curse

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