Alok Sharma is trying to save the world. Does he have to be able to fly to do this? | Climate change
The most blunt warning yet about the global climate’s proximity to the point of no return will be issued to the world on Monday morning, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – made up of the world’s best climatologists – publishes a historical report.
Details are still under wraps, but the Guardian has confirmed that the IPCC warning will reinforce just how vital it is to try to prevent temperatures from reaching more than 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. Beyond this threshold, scientists will warn, the consequences of extreme weather conditions will be devastating. The world must act urgently: if greenhouse gas emissions are not halved in this decade, 1.5 ° C of heating will be inevitable and probably irreversible.
The IPCC warning will set the stage for Cop26 – a vital UN climate talks – in Glasgow in November, where countries will have one last chance to put the 2015 Paris Agreement on track and keep it going. global warming to less than 1.5 ° C.
Thus, when it emerged on Friday that Alok Sharma, the British minister in charge of the COP26 talks, and his team – who are engaged in the urgent task of concluding a global climate agreement – had carried out 30 flights in the part of its diplomatic mission. , this raised a critical question. Should Sharma fly to these meetings, instead of conducting them virtually, at a time when we are increasingly aware of the looming disaster of climate change and the importance of reducing our carbon footprint?
Sharma will act as the president of Cop26, which means bringing together 196 countries that have signed the Paris Agreement and ensuring that each of them comes up with a plan to reduce emissions over the next decade, and s’ agrees on a long-term goal of achieving net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
This plan would always face serious obstacles: China, the world’s largest emitter, is attached to coal power and reluctant to promise to phase it out; India also uses coal to fuel its growing economy; Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia are big exporters of fossil fuels and have a habit of trying to thwart a deal at UN climate meetings; Brazil, under President Jair Bolsonaro, intends to allow further exploitation of the Amazon rainforest, which is burning at an almost record rate.
On top of that, the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented countries from coming together as they usually would before a major climate conference. Key negotiations have been delayed and had to take place virtually, but many countries fear that virtual negotiations will be unfair and will not produce the necessary progress.
Chris Venables, political director of the Green Alliance think tank, said: “Alok Sharma is literally trying to save the world – and the idea that he shouldn’t be using every tool at his disposal to try to do so is absurd. You can’t negotiate complex political deals to save the planet on Zoom and Covid has made it even more important for the cop chairman to sit down in person with world leaders. It’s a storm in a teacup – and for the sake of all of us, we should let him continue his work. “
Leo Murray, a seasoned theft activist and co-founder of Plane Stupid, said: “The reason the Daily Mail did this is to serve an agenda – they know it undermines the whole green agenda. He’s a diplomat, he has to fly. If there is a limited budget for aircraft emissions, that seems like a very good use.
Negotiations were to take place in person if the progress required by November was to be made, said Tom Burke, government adviser and co-founder of environmental think tank E3G. He said: “The only way to deal with climate change is through diplomacy – and it can’t be done with Zoom, it has to be face to face. Alok Sharma did a great job. He took this nightmare travel program because it’s the only way to do climate diplomacy. “
Burke said government rules allow exemptions from the need for self-isolation upon return from overseas. “They allow exemptions for emergencies – and boy, are we in an emergency! “