‘If we don’t act now, its too late,’ says David Attenborough ahead of COP26

Posted by David Henning on 27 October 2021

The date for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is getting closer, as 200 000 people from 196 countries will converge in Glasgow on 31 October 2021 in the most anticipated UN climate summit in history. The great environmental activist and broadcasting personality, Sir David Attenborough, wasn’t short of words when he told the BBC that ‘if we don’t act now, it’s too late.’

READ: All eyes on Glasgow as 2021 Climate Change Conference looms

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their most scathing report on the climate crisis, and how all except one country are on track in reducing their emissions below the demarcated 1.5° C.

Why is COP26 so important?

There have been 25 other COPs, and the 26th summit is proving the be the most hyped climate meeting in the summit’s history. There are a number of reasons for this, one being that the IPCC report released earlier this year finally managed to convey the urgency of the climate conjuncture.

Before, many institutional bodies involved in the climate movement were hesitant to call for radical changes and governments were cautious to do much more than subtle incremental changes over long periods of time, with the fear of ostracising mass support.

This has resulted in consumer-based reforms, where plane travellers can pay a ‘carbon tax’ to offset their emissions and focus on net-zero emissions and so rather than focusing on reducing emissions, companies ‘offset’ their emissions by planting a tree. Regardless of the good intent driving these actions, it takes away from meaningful reforms that aim to reduce and stop carbon emissions drastically.

Another contributing factor has to do with scientific assessments revealing that pledges made by governments at the 2015 COP in Paris haven’t been met; almost all governments still fall short of the official goal to limit global warming to a global yemperature increase of less than 2°C.

The international non-profit organization, Climate Action Tracker (CAT), analyses government action and measures it against the Paris Agreement, revealing that only one country has fulfilled its commitments, The Gambia.

Picture: Climate Action Tracker

As it stands, CAT estimates that policies put in place during the Paris Agreement could shave 0.7 °C off the predicted average temperature increase, resulting in estimated warming of 2.9 °C by 2100. Renewed government commitments would strip off another 0.5 °C, which is still above the ideal 1.5 °C, but an improvement on what scientists were predicting a year ago.

David Attenborough’s comments ahead of the COP26 summit warned of the ‘last chance’ to try and curb environmental breakdown. After the UN report found that humans are threatening 1 million species with extinction, Attenborough states that ‘if we don’t act now, it will be too late.’ He added that rich countries have a ‘moral responsibility to the world’s poorest. It would be really catastrophic if we ignored their problems,’ he said.

The poorest countries have contributed the least to carbon emissions, but are predicted to be disproportionately affected, where much of the temperatures in sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to rise at twice the global rate.


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