COP26 and Climate Change in the United Kingdom

By: Sikander Islam


Introduction

Climate change is a harsh reality which we as a society can no longer ignore. Whether it is here in the United Kingdom, or anywhere else in the world, we live in a globalised world where we must take progressive actions collectively as a community. There have been many discussions which have taken place on climate change over the past few decades, multiple deals signed by world leaders, and billions of dollars invested in clean energy initiatives. Afterall, there is so much at stake, and we can only progress in this battle against climate change if we work together as global citizens. Laws need to be mended, implemented, and reformed to make industries change completely to renewable forms of energy. The purpose of this article is to critically analyse the achievements and failures of the United Kingdom regarding its fight against climate change, and to study the main goals on a global level of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.


UK’s Climate Change Success Story and Failures

The reason why some people may not be bothered about climate change is because they continuously hear all the negative stories about how humans are destroying the planet, and the awful times the future generations will have to endure. Climate change summits and conferences in the past have attracted a lot of younger people, activists who have dedicated their entire career to environmentalism, and politicians who have delivered impressive speeches in their fancy suits and dresses. Although there is a lot of hype around these conferences, it seems that they have become more of a leisure retreat for world leaders to discuss important matters regarding the environment. There is less focus on taking action and more time is spent on advertising how much politicians want to solve the climate crisis.


David Attenborough, who is a world-renowned English broadcaster, natural historian, and author, states;


“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change.”[1]


Attenborough is a well-known personality who has always made people fall in love with nature and animals through his research, narration on nature television documentaries, and writing. He has dedicated most of his life to the preservation and conservation of natural life in Earth’s various ecosystems.


Big corporate companies in the United Kingdom are moving towards green sources of energy, reducing the use of plastic, and implementing carbon free programmes. Some excellent examples of this include the following:


1) Aerial Power: A London-based company which has created a drone-based system to clean solar panels. Using sophisticated technology, this is a clean, cost-effective, and the most efficient method in place in the UK.


2) BBC Earth: To fight climate change, BBC Earth stands against the fast fashion industry. They have formed partnerships to launch a sustainable fashion brand.


3) Wyatt & Jack: To reduce the impact on the climate, this company creates sustainable bags as well as accessories. They have managed to create quite an impact and now have a large clientele.[2]


The examples above from the UK give hope that there are positive actions already in place to reduce the impact of humans on the climate.


Although a lot is being done to prevent climate change in the UK, it is quite clear that the UK is well behind the target it has set for itself, and the government is not implementing strong enough laws to prevent climate change on a significant level. The UK is experiencing changes in weather patterns like never before. Average land temperature has risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius over the past century. Sea levels in the seas that surround Britain have risen 16cm over the past 120 years. Heat-related deaths during the summer months are at a record high in England, and homes are not equipped to deal with hot summers.[3] This is all a result of UK’s ever-growing population and heavy reliance on fossil fuels. It is estimated that there are still at least 40 fossil-fuel projects currently in the UK pipeline. These include gas deposits, oil fields, and coal mines.[4] Despite this being the case, COP26 is UK’s biggest hope. The government’s focus right now is investing as much as possible in the National Health Service (NHS) and its fight against the Covid-19 Pandemic. Considering the Climate Change Act of 2008, it is rather obvious that the UK has a long way to go if it wants to meet the targets it originally set for itself.[5] For that, action needs to be taken now, because time has shown that new industries take many years to fully develop and function in-order-to replace old ones.


COP26

Greta Thunberg, who is a Swedish climate change activist, has always criticized the purpose of these grand climate change conferences. Although Greta might have a strong point, these conferences do have some sort of hope attached to them. The promises made this year could change how governments view climate change. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is one of the most publicized environmental conferences of all time. The world has finally opened up after lengthy lockdowns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and people are eager for change.


This conference is unique because it is taking place in a strategic place such as Scotland. Since the UK is geographically in the middle of Asia and the Americas, it draws more attention and parties towards it during these global events. This conference is supposed to be as climate friendly as possible. It is hosting speeches not only from world leaders such as Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau, Joe Biden, and Fumio Kishida, but also from local activists and various indigenous groups whose communities endure the worst effects.[6]

Is COP26 going to have a long-lasting impact, or with time the impressive speeches delivered will fade away until the next UN Climate Change conference is around the corner? The answer is that time will tell. Although, these conferences are just a reflection of delivering a way to tackle climate change, they provide a platform for engagement as well as diplomacy, so that collective action can be taken. It is more appealing as an idea rather than practice, and the strikes and climate protests during the autumn months of 2021 in Glasgow explain that.


Conclusion

The aim of this article was to critically analyse the achievements and failures of the United Kingdom regarding its fight against climate change, as well as discuss the COP26 conference. Climate change deals signed during COP26 shall be put into practice or, perhaps just like old times, be gradually ignored by the people who have the power to make big political and environmental stances. What needs to be done is that instead of only educating the society of how they can save the planet, and the media circus that markets everything and anything that is close to being environmentally friendly; companies which are relying on old methods of energy and producing disastrous effects on the environment, need to change their methods so that people follow.


[1] Matt Mcgrath, 'Sir David Attenborough: Climate change 'our greatest threat'' (BBC News, 03 December 2018) [2] Barney Cotton , '25 sustainable UK companies that are out to save the planet' (Business Leader, May 24, 2019) [3] Climate Change Committee, 'UK struggling to keep pace with climate change impacts' (Climate Change Committee, 16 June 2021) [4] Rebekah Diski, '40 NEW UK FOSSIL-FUEL PROJECTS EMITTING TRIPLE THE UK’S ANNUAL EMISSIONS COULD BE APPROVED BY 2025' (New Economics Foundation, 28 OCTOBER 2021) [5] Legislation Govuk, 'Climate Change Act 2008' (Legislationgovuk, 2008) [6] Grace Barret, 'COP26: Indigenous peoples, protests, and a call to end the war on nature' (United Nations UN News Global perspective Human stories, 06 November 2021)