World leaders meet on climate change, make pledges, but critics unhappy

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The landmark COP26 climate summit in Glasgow opened with world leaders making pledges on how to tackle climate change. They met with harsh criticism both from from inside and outside the venue.

The COP26 started with terse warnings, illustrated by the words of UN Secretary General António Guterres, who said in a terse statement that humankind's addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink.

"We are digging our own graves by treating nature like a toilet," he added.

"The six years since the Paris Climate Agreement have been the six hottest years on record."

The first two days of the meeting are are reserved for the "World Leaders Summit" where political decision makers outline the plans of their countries.

On Wednesday, speakers at the "presidency program" will try and show how climate finance is being mobilized for countries that need it most and how the $100bn a year commitment will be met.

This refers to the pledge, made 12 years ago during the Copenhagen Climate Summit when rich nations promised to put in this amount to help poorer countries cope with the effects of climate change.

"Greed and selfishness"

But that promise was not kept. And an article in Nature magazine argues that the $100bn a year figure is miniscule.

"Trillions of dollars will be needed each year to meet the 2015 Paris agreement goal of restricting global warming to well below 2 °C, if not 1.5 °C, above pre-industrial temperatures," the magazine says.

"And developing nations (as they are termed in the Copenhagen pledge) will need hundreds of billions of dollars annually to adapt to the warming that is already inevitable."

Mia Mottley, the Barbados Prime Minister, speaking for vulnerable island nations, added moral thunder.

She warned leaders not to allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.

"This is immoral and it is unjust," Mottley said. "Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?"

Outside the venue, things heated up as well.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was mobbed by fans and onlookers after arriving in Glasgow.

Thunberg arrived at Glasgow Central train station from London late on Saturday evening and was escorted by police out of the station.

In the video of her arrival, published by Reuters, scores of people, including journalists and photographers, are seen jostling to get close to her.

On Monday, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "The voices of young people like Greta Thunberg must be heard loudly at COP26. The next few days should not be comfortable for leaders. Responsibility to act must be felt."

Outside the venue, cordoned off by hundreds of police, activists demonstrated, asking government leaders to respect decisions regarding climate change.

Inside the venue, critics also expressed displeasure and doubt about the commitment by world leaders.

While France prides it self on having organized the world's biggest biodiversity summit in September, and presents itself as an "active member" of the COP26, environmental watchdog Greenpeace issued a statement criticising French President Emmanuel Macron.

"France has just been sentenced by the administrative court for faulty shortcomings in the fight against climate change," said Clément Sénéchal, climate campaign manager for Greenpeace France, referring to a ruling last month that ordered the French government to make up for its failure to meet its own greenhouse gas reduction targets.

France is also "the only European country in the G20 to have increased its fossil financing since the signing of the Paris Agreement (+ 24% in 2019)," according to the activist.

Harmful effects

"Beyond the endless fine speeches, Emmanuel Macron arrives empty-handed in Glasgow," he said.

US President Joe Biden also came under fire. On Monday, he announced that his country will make its first contribution to the Adaptation Fund, a mechanism set up under the Kyoto Protocol that aims at helping developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change.

"The $3 billion in support for adaptation is not additional to the $11.4 billion already pledged by the Biden administration at the UN General Assembly in September," said Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, expressing hope that the United States will do more to respect the terms of the Paris agreement.

"All developed countries must support developing countries as they adapt to climate impacts and transition to low-carbon economies," he said.

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