'Too early' to assess accomplishments of Cop26, warn experts

'Too early' to assess accomplishments of Cop26, warn experts

Former US president Barack Obama delivers a speech to delegates during the Cop26 summit at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow on Monday. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

It is too early to declare the United Nations (UN) climate change Cop26 summit a failure; there have already been real signs of progress, according to one of the world's foremost climate scientists.

Professor Michael E Mann, a climatologist, geophysicist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, called for perspective, tweeting that negotiations at Cop26 are barely under way. 

"It is way too early to assess what was and wasn't accomplished. We'll only know that in a week, but there is already some very real progress," he said.

Environmental activists locked out of the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow last week lamented the fact that the fossil fuel companies had a wide range of delegates in attendance at the 25,000-strong summit, which heard a number of pledges from world leaders on robust action to tackle climate change.

Accusations of greenwashing

Despite the pledges, activists have largely dismissed the words of global leaders, claiming the event is high-level "greenwashing".

Greenwashing is the term used to describe firms and organisations embellishing their green credentials through slick marketing, scant evidence, and out-of-context claims.

Prof Mann also tweeted: "Beware of the slippery slope from cynicism to nihilism. It leads to the same place as denialism: inaction. Which is precisely what polluters and those doing their bidding want."

Prof Mann has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, and is considered to be one of the outstanding scientists in the climate change realm. 

Barack Obama arrives at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow on Monday. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Barack Obama arrives at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow on Monday. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Inside Cop26 are opportunities for academics, researchers, and business leaders to network at a level that is unreachable outside of such a setting, University College Cork (UCC) professor Brian Ó Gallachóir said.

The director of the Cork-based Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine (MaREI) and professor of energy engineering at UCC said Cop26 had given a golden opportunity for future partnerships to spring up as delegates from around the world met each other in person.

Unique opportunity

"It is a unique opportunity. We all have our conferences and workshops that we attend, but to have this on our doorstep, so close to Cork, is why UCC sent a delegation. The value of the networking, the value of having access to the latest information and the politicians and the policymakers from around the world, it's unique in that regard.

"If you look at it on an annual basis, there is no other topic in the world that countries come together to discuss and listen to the science, to work out what the next steps should be. There is a bit of theatre surrounding the world leaders, but in fact, the ambitions they express puts it up to the negotiators to push further. 

World leaders will talk about 1.5C but it's only through negotiations over the two weeks that we'll really know how that is progressing."

The fashion industry is the latest to signal its intent to reduce emissions at Cop26, with updated targets under the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

It pledged to halve emissions by 2030, with a pledge to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050 – considerably higher than the previous target set of 30% aggregate greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030.

Some 130 firms have signed the fashion charter including Kering (owner of Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Lauren), Chanel, Nike, and Puma.

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