Carbon Copy: Long queues to enter COP26 venue frustrate delegates

Attendees queueing to enter the Scottish Event Campus on the second day of the COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow on Nov 1, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

GLASGOW - The burst of sunshine in Glasgow on Monday morning (Nov 1) did not lift the spirits of COP26 delegates, many of whom had to wait in line for about an hour just to enter the conference venue.

Tempers flared as queues formed outside the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow where the two-week conference is being held amid strict security measures and stringent Covid-19 restrictions. Capacity has been limited to ensure safe distancing.

About 10,000 people are allowed to be in the venue at any one time, although about 25,000 people have been accredited. Apart from country delegates, those accredited include the media, non-governmental groups, academics and youth groups.

COP26 organisers tweeted at about 3pm Glasgow time (11pm Singapore time) that the venue was nearing capacity limits, and urged participants to stay in the Blue Zone - the main area where plenaries and side events are held - only for as long as necessary.

Delegates were also urged to make use of the COP26 virtual platform where possible.

Monday also marked the start of the World Leaders Summit, a two-day event at COP26 convened by Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson for heads of states to make clear their commitments on tackling climate change.

In welcoming them to COP26, Mr Johnson likened the Glasgow summit to a James Bond film, where Scotland's "globally famous fictional son" is strapped to a doomsday device desperately trying to work out which coloured wire to pull to turn it off.

"We are in roughly the same position, my fellow global leaders... except that the tragedy is that this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real," he said.

Here are some other interesting snippets from day two of the climate talks.

1. World leaders address COP26

Heads of states outlined their countries' plans to deal with the climate crisis, with financing - or the lack of it - a key issue raised by many.

United States President Joe Biden said the White House will work with Congress to provide US$3 billion (S$4 billion) in adaptation finance annually by 2024 for poor, vulnerable nations and pointed to his government's US$555 billion Build Back Better Framework, the country's largest single investment in clean energy.

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his nation needed financial support to accelerate steps to cut emissions.

"Indonesia will be able to contribute faster to the world's net-zero emissions goal (by 2050). The question is how big are developed countries' contributions for us?" he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also addressed the summit in a written statement.

2. Climate change fingerprint

The fingerprints of climate change have been detected in two extreme weather events this year, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Sunday in a report issued at the start of COP26.

The heatwave that fried north-west America in June and July would have been "virtually impossible without climate change", the WMO said, while the floods that inundated western Europe in July were made more likely by climate change.

The WMO report, which combines input from multiple UN agencies, national meteorological and hydrological services and scientific experts, is one of the flagship scientific reports to add urgency to negotiations during the conference.

3. Pressure mounts on politicians

Every Conference of Parties (COP) event has its "climate villains", nations that are called out for their weak pledges to cut emissions and scrooge-like attitude towards giving money to poorer countries to help them invest in clean energy and adapt to climate impacts.

At COP26, fossil-fuel powerhouse Australia is in the sights of some non-governmental organisations and nations for its weak 2030 climate target and rushed net-zero 2050 commitment, the latter agreed just before the Glasgow meeting.

Australia is a top coal and liquefied natural gas exporter and is adverse to any deal that will harm its exports, saying that technology will provide the solutions to climate change.

"Technology will have the answers for a decarbonised economy," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told fellow world leaders on Monday.

Australia has also cut back climate finance contributions, paying far less than its fair share.

Respected think-tank The Australia Institute took out a full-page ad in Scotland's The Sunday Post to greet Mr Morrison in Glasgow. It features a photo of him in Parliament holding a lump of coal, with the headline: "Don't let Australia wreck Glasgow".

4. Actress Maisie Williams of Arya Stark fame on her ability to sense trees from afar

The BBC premiered its new natural history series, The Green Planet, during COP26.

The five-part series will be released in Asia in January 2022, and tells the story of how plants learnt to survive and thrive in almost every environment, from tropical rainforests to the frozen north.

Plants are typically not considered to be as charismatic as animals. But the series aims to dispel this notion by showing how plants can be as competitive, aggressive and dramatic as animals.

English actress and environmental advocate Maisie Williams, who played Arya Stark in the fantasy drama series Game of Thrones, said during the premiere on Sunday: "As humans, we are hard-wired to prioritise animals over plants. This is something that some scientists are calling plant-blindness. But plants are vital for our survival on this planet."

She added: "The more we distance ourselves from our greatest allies, the more trouble we are in."

She shared with the audience her connection with trees.

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5. A thinning glacier called Glasgow

A thinning glacier in the Getz region of the British Antarctic Territory has been named the Glasgow Glacier in honour of the COP26 host city.

It is one of nine glaciers there that were named after locations of important climate treaties, conferences and reports, said the European Space Agency on Sunday.

Data from satellites showed that glaciers in the Getz region have lost more than 300 gigatonnes of ice over the last 25 years - an issue that has become synonymous with the climate crisis, said the agency.

The warming world is causing land ice to melt. When meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets enter the ocean, they cause sea levels to rise.

The names were requested by scientists from the University of Leeds, and approved by Britain's Antarctic Place-Names Committee. They will be added to the British Antarctic Territory Gazetteer for use on all maps, charts and future publications.

Glaciers in the Getz region of the British Antarctic Territory have been renamed to highlight the climate crisis. PHOTO: THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY

The other newly named glaciers were:

- The Geneva Glacier, named after the world's first climate conference in 1979.

- The Rio Glacier, to mark the first Earth Summit in 1992.

- The Berlin Glacier, named after the first COP event in 1995, which assessed the progress of dealing with climate change.

- The Kyoto Glacier, which commemorates the formal adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at COP3 in 1997, which legally bound developed countries to set emission reduction targets.

- The Bali Glacier, which refers to where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth assessment report was released in 2007.

- The Stockholm Glacier, which honours the IPCC fifth assessment report approval session in 2014. This report represented the biggest coming together of scientists at the time.

- The Paris Glacier, in memory of the historic Paris Agreement adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015.

- The Incheon Glacier, marking the meeting of the IPCC to consider the special report of global warming of 1.5 deg C in 2015.

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