Anne T. Sulton, Ph.D., J.D.
JA Senior International Correspondent
The United Nations Climate Change Conference UK 2021, a/k/a COP26, was scheduled to be held in Glasgow from October 31 through November 12. It concluded on November 13 after intense debates among representatives of nearly 200 nations. All represented nations agreed to the Glasgow Climate Pact.
Thousands of world leaders in politics and business, scientists, and activists delivered speeches and engaged in discussions during the scheduled sessions. More than 100,000 activists demonstrated in the streets, demanding more be done to protect the planet and to save their lives and livelihoods.
Some progress was made. The Glasgow Climate Pact contains language to “phase down” coal. Activists wanted language promising to “phase out” coal.
Pledges to “phase out” subsidies for coal, oil, and natural gas were made. Activists wanted firm dates by when the subsidies would end.
Agreements to stop deforestation were made. Activists want these agreements enforced.
Suggestions to cut methane emissions by 2030 were welcomed by 100 countries – China, Russia, and India are not among these.
India is among those nations seeking and gaining the “phase down” coal language. Seems really strange given that India currently has no clean air, very little clean water, and millions of its 1.4 billion citizens experiencing weekly the devastating effects of climate change.
When Alice Tisdale Perkins and I traveled around India years ago, every day we blew black snot from our noses. The air was filthy and the water undrinkable. But the people we met along the way were beautiful, kind, and hard working.
When I look at what COP26 accomplished, I am reminded of one of my favorite poems. It was written by James Patrick Kinney. It reads:
The Cold Within
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.
The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.
The activists did not have a stick to contribute to the fire. All they could do is show up in Glasgow and beg for consideration of their plight as those holding the sticks decided the world’s fate.
When – by what date certain – will the rich and powerful realize we all will perish from the cold within if we fail to heed the cries of those now most vulnerable to climate change?