Negotiations on climate change agreements have been a long and bumpy road with many roadblocks since it began in 1972. In recent years, the deadlock in negotiations gathered speed with greater intensity when the question was raised, "What should the rest of the world do since America formally withdrew from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017?"
The world has greatly changed since then. As of this writing, Covid-19 is still ravaging many parts of the world. It is thought that the devastating effects of the pandemic would change our perceptions and thought processes in many positive ways.
During this fearful and uncertain time, America's political landscape has also changed. For many, the outcome of the recent American presidential election has been a breath of fresh air. The new president's upbeat attitude towards the Paris agreement certainly got the world more optimistic.
Yet underneath all this optimism lurks a far more fundamental question, which affects the present reality of global cooperation in climate talks, "Can any country afford to ignore adaptation and mitigation measures in climate change and act alone as an uninterested bystander?"
The answer is a clear and unequivocal, "No".
Climate change is the biggest nemesis in the struggle for humanity's survival. But there is still continuous disagreement over global cooperation.
Disagreement among polluter elites is going on for far too long while the extreme weather events and rising global temperature continue to cause suffering for the people. We have witnessed some of the most extreme weather events in history throughout the globe in the last decade alone.
We now know that "business as usual" cannot be an option where millions or even billions of people around the world are at the risk of losing everything. We must not forget that climate change was initially created by the now developed nations emitting greenhouse gasses since the industrial revolution.
Once again, the most eagerly anticipated UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 21.
The representatives from the world's governments, business communities, NGOs and civic societies will get together to seek out and settle on the best way to advance the implementation of the Paris climate agreement.
Expectations are running high this time. But the critics have pointed out that the breakthrough, which is needed to fulfil the aspiration of the Paris agreement may fail to materialise. Among all the initiatives being taken, doubt still persists.
Will all the attendees, around 196 nations, agree on their National Determined Contribution (NDC) to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which will eventually help to limit the overall global temperature to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels?
Will China, the biggest carbon emitter and second-biggest economy in the world turn their back on burning coal and manufacturing steel for tall buildings?
What about America, which is the world's second-biggest emitter and the top economic powerhouse? Will their promises of zero-carbon electricity and storage by 2035 ever be possible?
And what about the methods of electricity generation, which will have a direct impact (i.e., clean vehicle transition) in the transportation sector?
India is another country that depends on coal-fired plants to generate electricity and is the third-biggest carbon emitter. India has been severely damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is natural for any country to do their best to rebound after the pandemic.
India will face enormous pressure to avoid coal and other fossil fuels as its renewable energy sector is still in a nascent stage. The usage of coal might prove to be the "Achilles' heel" of India's targets on NDC.
Let us turn the page and move on to the European Union (EU) who has always been at the forefront of international efforts to combat climate change. Sometimes the EU single-handedly kept the flame of international climate actions alive.
The EU has the target to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels. This is indeed an ambitious target, but there is not enough time left to achieve it considering the adverse economic impacts of Covid-19.
At the Glasgow conference, the world's attention will turn to China and America. These two countries together account for more than half of the global carbon emissions.
However, considering their frosty bilateral relationship, it is hard to anticipate that these two countries will come out with warm smiles and good handshakes.
There are no nationalist answers to the climate change threats. Maintaining the status quo of living together-apart and longstanding antagonism between these two countries will certainly not help to tackle a common threat.
Greta Thunberg's recent speech found an echo in the hearts of many around the world during the Youth4Climate summit in Milan: "All we hear is blah blah blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises."
This clearly highlights genuine frustrations among younger generations as their future is at the stake.
Finally, to put it succinctly, the Covid-19 crisis has been a learning curve for humanity. In a short time, humanity has found solutions against the unseen enemy. This shows that collaboration is the key to overcoming a common threat.
At this juncture in history, humanity must get together again and fight against the biggest threat humans have ever faced.
Yousuf Jamil is a Bangladeshi environmentalist living in the UK. He can be reached at email@example.com
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.