The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, will be the last realistic chance to correct our shared global course in a world overheating due to human activity and fossil fuel burning. In advance of the summit next November, the Dublin Climate Declaration will be issued, with many key figures in climate geopolitics backing a global call to action.
That will be the culmination of two days of deliberation next week under the Dublin Climate Dialogues (DCD) initiative, with representatives from the biggest carbon-emitting countries taking part. Delegates from the UN, international leaders in politics and business, climate justice campaigners and representatives of countries most vulnerable to the climate threat will gather around the virtual table.
There are grounds for hope in the attractive price of renewable energy – especially solar and wind, the cheapest energy source, and getting cheaper.
There is new optimism about climate action, seen in big polluting countries such as the US and China promising to do more, and giant corporations embarking on meaningful crusades to achieve net-zero emissions. There are some too, undoubtedly, availing of the opportunity to "greenwash" or disguise their continuing fossil fuel use.
At one level, “climate risk” is the new huge headache for every major business enterprise, which may prompt financial crises that will be a whole lot worse than the recent banking crash if capital markets believe it has not been correctly factored into asset and corporate valuations. And yet there are grounds for hope in the attractive price of renewable energy – especially solar and wind, the cheapest energy source, and getting cheaper.
The one indisputable truth, however, is what science indicates. And that points to a glaring ambition gap. More greenhouse gases are going into the atmosphere and global temperatures are rising faster than at any time in human history.
The Paris Agreement was a landmark achievement underpinned by unprecedented collective action, but its voluntary aspects have, arguably, been its undoing
Nature, instead of being a central part of the solution, is being placed under intolerable strain. All this is pushing Planet Earth closer to an abyss when heightened risk of irreversible climate change will kick in from 2030 on.
Factoring in current decarbonisation rates – rather than promises – the hard data indicates global climate ambition has to increase by a factor of 10 to meet the Paris Agreement goals, and that is still no guarantee it will arrest climate disruption.
Science indicates 2021 is the critical year in setting a new course for the planet in the hope of avoiding irreversible impacts and dangerous tipping points by keeping to within a 1.5-degree temperature rise. Halving emissions by 2030 makes a net-zero world realisable within three decades.
Since 2019 Irish ambition has scaled up, and the country is gaining credibility in seeking to rank among global leaders on climate
COP26, taking place in Glasgow and hosted by the UK government, is the essential mechanism to make that happen. It's true that more and more countries – including Ireland – are committing to net-zero emissions and advancing plans to decarbonise their economies, but the overall pace is too slow.
The Paris Agreement was a landmark achievement underpinned by unprecedented collective action, but its voluntary aspects have, arguably, been its undoing – a get-out-of-jail card facilitating poor delivery, as was the case in Ireland. However, since 2019 Irish ambition has scaled up, and the country is gaining credibility in seeking to rank among global leaders on climate.
US climate envoy John Kerry believes COP26 is "the last best chance to get real" in avoiding climate catastrophe.
It was against that backdrop that the UCD-hosted DCD event emerged. Organised by global experts in renewable energy, climate science and economics based in Ireland, it will be chaired by former European Parliament president Pat Cox.
It may have been regarded as an insignificant or even naive attempt to influence the complex and often intractable process of herding nations in their collective interest on climate, but the Government has come on board – as has the UK, whose COP26 envoy John Murton will receive the Dublin Climate Declaration, with an endorsement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
This week US climate envoy John Kerry also confirmed his participation – he believes COP26 is "the last best chance to get real" in avoiding climate catastrophe.