Major polluter countries “dodged the bullet” on making significant pledges to cut carbon emissions, one year on from the landmark COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, according to a Dundee university environmental scientist.
Dr Simon Cook, who specialises in glaciers, described disappointments and the continued lack of a “credible” plan to reduce carbon emissions to hit safe targets.
In an interview with The Stooshie – the politics podcast from DC Thomson – Dr Cook assessed the legacy of the conference in Scotland as world leaders meet again for COP27 in Egypt.
Major areas where he believes world leaders fell short include phasing out coal and helping poorer nations bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.
Dr Cook said: “Before COP26 it was being billed as the make or break meeting on climate change, and we didn’t make it.
“Countries rather dodged the bullet last time at COP26 in trying to make ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions.
“The plan was to come back to COP27 in Egypt with some deeper cuts, more aggressive cuts in carbon emissions.
“But at the moment those sorts of plans are disappointing and don’t really go as deep as they need to.”
Energy crisis deepens problems
The environmental expert also fears the fight against global warming is being “kicked into the long grass” due to the ongoing energy crisis.
Leading politicians – including Rishi Sunak and Nicola Sturgeon – have been in Egypt to join crisis talks.
Yet soaring energy bills and the cost-of-living emergency loom over the conference.
A split has emerged in the past year over the future of oil and gas in the North Sea.
Some argue to keep drilling to improve our energy security, while others want a quicker shift to renewables.
Dr Cook insisted the move from fossil fuels and the need to ensure a strong energy supply cannot be seen as two separate concerns.
He told us: “Although energy security and climate security are often seen as two different things, they’re really part of the same coin.
“If we were to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we’d be more energy secure.”
To stay or go?
First minister Ms Sturgeon was criticised by some political rivals for her attendance at COP27.
Meanwhile, new prime minister Rishi Sunak originally didn’t plan to go at all, before he U-turned and travelled to the Sharm El-Sheikh summit.
But is there any actual value in world leaders attending these conferences, or is it all just for show?
Dr Cook said: “It’s easy to be cynical about politicians, but to me it’s a good thing that they both went.
“They are delivering a message from different ends of the political spectrum, and I hope the public take that message onboard.
“But ultimately it’ll be actions rather than words from politicians that really matter. We need policies to really make a difference.”
Listen to the full interview and wider conversation here.