Antonio Guterres, the United Nations chief, has serious doubts that the November summit on climate change, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, will succeed. He thinks the ‘mistrust’ between the world’s rich and poor will probably lead to another failure.
I have a simple idea for him. It may not save the Glasgow summit but will certainly inject new practical and realistic innovative ideas in the climate conversation as the world moves ahead in its so far bumpy pursuit to save the planet. Why not fly all those attending the COP26 in Scotland to Dubai to spend few days at Expo 2020?
Since the beginning of the climate change talks began in Rio, Brazil, in 1992 — the first Conference of the Parties (COP), we resigned to the fact that our planet is dying because of the steady rise in temperature. But it took more than 23 years, in 2015 in Paris, for the world to agree on a scientifically set target to keep the increase under 1.5 degree Celsius below the pre-industrial revolution levels — to cut carbon emissions.
Urgency to save the planet
However, the major parties to the Paris Agreement have yet to be on the same page when it comes to the depth and urgency of the action needed to save the planet. On the eve the Glasgow summit, leading world scientists warned that global warming is dangerously close to being out of control.
“We are on the verge of the abyss and when you are on the verge of the abyss, you need to be very careful about what the next step is. And the next step is COP26 in Glasgow,” Guterres told Reuters last week. And he noted that he believes “we are at risk of not having a success in COP26”, which will be held between 1-12 November. The mistrust — between north and south, developed and developing countries — needs to be overcome, he urged.
The UN chief says there isn’t enough commitment of developed countries to support developing countries, which understandably are most vulnerable to costly climate impacts, and the least resourced to deal with them.
Rich nation pledged in 2009 to raise $100 billion a year to help poor countries prepare for climate disruptions and upgrade production and manufacturing facilities to make them environment friendly. Most of that money has yet to arrive.
Guterres, who often seems ‘old style’ in his approach to world issues, can do the planet a huge favour by being a bit more innovative today. He needs to believe that there are brilliant ideas that don’t cost much money, which can go a long way in helping the COPs efforts to mitigate the emissions risks. And there are plenty of them on showcase at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Contributeing to well-being of planet
A key theme of Expo 2020 Dubai is Sustainability. Innovative ideas already tried and implemented and unique initiatives to help mitigate the risks to earth climate are housed in Terra, the Sustainability pavilion. The message of the landmark Expo 2020 is that we all can contribute to the well-being of our planet.
“The future of Earth hangs in the balance and there’s no planet B,” reads a smartly-worded message on the Expo website, urging visitors and exhibitors alike to be “an agent of change and help speed up the pace of protecting and preserving the only world we’ve got.”
The basic idea behind the sustainability concept is that we are all ‘obsessed with excessive consumerism’. Thus, the pavilion offers ideas on how to reduce carbon footprints and maximise our efforts to reduce global warming.
Take for example those 5,000 solar panels on the Terra Pavilion’s 130-metre-wide roof. They generate 4 gigawatt per hour of alternative energy per year, “enough electricity to charge more than 900,000 mobile phones.”
In the Singapore pavilion, COP26 delegates can see how a tropical rainforest is being sustained by net zero energy, with an amazing architecture that is basically an extension of the forest’s nature.
Guterres can invite the delegates to step into the Netherlands’ pavilion where they will notice the cone-shaped vertical farm growing mushrooms that can be sued for almost anything — from nutrition to construction.
As delegates move to the Czech Republic’s pavilion, they will notice the fibreglass pipes above. They are part of an innovative project, called S.A.W.E.R., that harness solar energy to create water literally out of thin air.
The Expo site itself is a great lesson in how we can minimise risks to the environment. One example is the landscape plants- 95 per cent of the landscape area is managed without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers, while innovative irrigation techniques, including a greywater recycling system, would reduce water use in the landscape by 75 per cent.
These are just few examples of what Expo 2020 can offer those locked in endless debate one COP after another. My idea is simple and fun. Just bring the Glasgow delegates here for few days. I am confident that the experience will change the COP conversation radically.
These people will know it is possible to save the planet by joining hands, connecting minds and sharing experiences. That doesn’t cost $100 billion, does it, Mr. Guterres?
The most important lesson Expo 2020 Dubai offers is that when it comes to climate change there is hope. And we need to seize on it to stop killing our planet.