Days before most of the world’s leaders meet in Glasgow for COP 26, Portugal’s environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes has said he is “not very optimistic” that it will result in the ambitious agreements needed to save the planet from the effects of climate change already underway.
While natural historian Sir David Attenborough has called the conference “our last opportunity to make the necessary step change” to avert disaster – and leading figures like UN secretary general António Guterres insist “we are on the wrong end of the abyss and going the wrong way…”, the truth is that some of the world’s key politicians won’t even be turning up – and a number represent countries doing little to address climate change.
Although he has been criticised as a man for whom mistreatment of matters environmental “has no limits” (click here), Mr Matos Fernandes cites the missing ‘big hitters’ as the reason for his pessimism.
“A few days ago, 75 new declarations of compromise were still missing”, he told Lusa – three of them from countries responsible for large quantities of carbon emissions: India, China and South Africa.
“I am really not yet very optimistic, but that doesn’t mean things may change for the better before we get there…”
COP26 opens on Sunday October 31 and runs for almost two weeks until Friday November 12.
In Mr Matos Fernandes’ mindset it is “the most important COP” to come since almost 200 countries signed the Paris Accord in 2015 which set out to limit global warming until the end of the century.
That limit is being rapidly exceeded to the point countries are to be told they will have to cut present greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45%.
“It’s a big jump”, says the minister. “Will we be able to do it? I am not sure…”
And if the limits cannot be attained “COP for all we may say about it going well, won’t really go that well”, he concluded.
PORTUGAL HAS CONTRIBUTED €35 MILLION TO FINANCE COUNTRIES IN DEVELOPMENT
In the micro picture however Mr Matos Fernandes says Portugal means to present itself in Glasgow as “the country that was the first in the world to say it would be carbon neutral (by 2050)” and pledge negative emissions from that date.
And while some targets in the Paris Accord may not have been met, Portugal’s own – to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 – is now on track to have reduced them by 55%.
The country is also going to the conference with the declaration that “in 10 years in has contributed with €35 million to finance countries in development that also have to make the journey towards clean energy”, he added.
“Many of these countries – especially those in Africa that speak Portuguese, already have serious adaptation problems and are already well aware of the consequences of climate change.”
But in Matos Fernandes’ opinion the most vital aspect of COP 26 has to be transparency.
“Once and for all we have to have rules that are the same for Portugal as they are for the United States, or the Central African Republic in terms of controlling emissions”.
The emission credits that came out of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 “should all be scrapped because the values are very debatable, with very strange metrics, not very transparent and difficult now to compare” – and, of course, the fact that this COP is taking place during an energy crisis, makes the whole task ahead even more complicated, he explained, as nothing is sustainable.
The bottom line, stresses the environment minister, is that “we all have to get to 2050 with a more electrified world, and with 100% of electricity generated by clean energy sources”.
The “apocalyptic discourse” that is already ushering COP26 in “doesn’t add anything” to the efforts for a better environment, he told Lusa, but it “has been decisive in raising awareness among ordinary citizens”.