The United Kingdom is hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
Initially scheduled for last year, it was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Global leaders gathered on Oct. 31 in Glasgow, Scotland, and will be discussing the global response to climate change until Nov. 12.
President Biden arrived at COP 26 on Nov. 1, following the G20 Leaders’ Summit meeting in Rome. He comes politically handicapped, to some degree, because the U.S. Congress has, as of now, failed to adopt his ambitious climate change agenda.
Biden is one of 25,000 delegates from 100 countries attending one of the world’s most historic summits of global leaders. The collective sentiment is that this gathering offers “the last best hope we have of making the Paris Climate Accords of 2015 fully operational.”
The goal of the Glasgow Climate Change Summit is to accelerate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change established in 2015. There are three main goals set for the Glasgow Summit:
1. Secure global net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Net zero carbon emissions are necessary to keep the global temperature from increasing more than 1.5º C above pre-industrial levels, which should prevent the most catastrophic scenarios from occurring.
To do this, countries will need to accelerate the phaseout of fossil fuel production and consumption, encourage investment in renewable energy, curtail deforestation and switch to electric vehicles.
2. Adapt to protect natural habitats.
Climate change is already happening with devastating effects. Countries will need to build defenses against global warming, put warning systems in place for more severe storms, restore ecosystems and make agriculture more resilient.
3. Mobilize finance.
Developed countries need to deliver on their Paris Accord promises to raise $100 billion in climate finances per year. This financial infrastructure is key to implementing the changes necessary to confront climate change.
The summit leadership points out that some progress has been made.
For example, 70% of the world’s economy is now committed to net zero emissions, up from 30% five years ago, and all G7 countries have announced new emission targets.
Solar and wind are now cheaper than new coal and gas power plants in two thirds of countries in the world. Many global car companies are making the shift to electric-only vehicles.
Nevertheless, climate activists and other scientific observers are already exerting pressure on world leaders to do more than set goals. Noted climate change activist Greta Thunberg is attending COP26 and leading in a climate strike on Friday.
During a youth climate conference in Milan in September she said: “Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero. Blah, blah, blah. Climate neutral. Blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises.”
The expected absence of President Xi of China and President Putin of Russia have led some to say the COP26 is already woefully inadequate. Leaders from Mexico and Iran are staying away as well.
Prime Minister Modi of India is attending, but he has already announced that his country will not commit to zero carbon emissions by 2050 — it will be 2070, he says.
India, the world’s third largest producer of carbon emissions after China and the U.S., is expected to grow in the use of carbon-emitting power sources for decades to come. Its focus at the summit is on technology sharing and more equitable distribution of resources from more advanced economies like the U.S., Europe and China.
Three of the world’s largest Christian bodies have issued an unprecedented statement calling for support and prayer for the delegates of the Glasgow Summit. Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew urged the leaders to make courageous choices for the sake of humanity and God’s creation.
Additionally, religious conferences have been held in advance of COP26, as leaders from multiple faith traditions seek to address the moral implications of climate change on human beings.
In addition, 2,000 young evangelical Christians in the UK organized a 750-mile relay-pilgrimage from southwestern England to Glasgow, Scotland, to raise awareness and rally support for the summit.
C3-Christians Caring for Creation, founded two years ago to promote Christian stewardship of the earth as an essential aspect of discipleship, joins these leaders in praying for boldness and success of the summit.
God has given humanity an enormous responsibility to care for the earth and the world’s most vulnerable people. This is a critical time, not only for the environment, but also for the witness of the Christian community.
As the largest religious body in the world with 1.3 billion believers, Christians are integral to the well-being of the earth’s future.
C3 encourages all Christians to stay in tune and in prayer for COP26 over the next two weeks.
An ordained Baptist minister, Gordon is the founder and CEO of Christians Caring for Creation. He is a member of the Good Faith Media strategic advisory board.