Promises, skepticism and a sense of despair at COP26 – eyewitness

GLASGOW – It takes about an hour, even with press credentials, to cross the line to enter the Blue Zone, the official delegations of the countries, of the United Nations Climate Conference. It’s an hour long, as half the waiting time the cold Scottish air is quite unpleasant until we reach the covered security zone.

We are in the UK, and the people are quite patient and friendly, and I had to suppress my Israeli instincts to push and weave and cajole.

It is a Tower of Babel upside down. Languages, familiar and exotic, the buzz around me, as representatives from nearly 200 countries come together to try to prevent the next Great Flood. Or, as the Prime Minister of Barbados put it, to avoid a death sentence against her nation and the other island nations, which make up about a quarter of the UN membership.

I was lucky enough to be in the Israeli delegation to the Paris Climate Conference six years ago, but this time everything is different. In Paris, there was a feeling that the world has finally come together to end the self-destructive addiction to burning fossil fuels. But the last six years have been the hottest in history, and greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise during this time.

Attending Glasgow is a cross between being optimistic on the Titanic and Noah’s lumberjacks. Adaptation. Mitigation. Conservation. Regeneration. The power to change. The slogans are everywhere, from the electric trains and buses that transport the 20,000 of us to the elegant exhibits in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, and dozens of other countries promoting their best sides. I pass by their exhibits humming the shmitta song that my rabbi, Oded Mazor, wrote to dedicate this sabbatical year in the Land of Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Glasgow (credit: CHAIM TZACH / GPO)

The UN Conference is divided between the Blue Zone, the country’s official delegations, and the Green Zone, where electric cars, airplanes, mini cars and many nature-based solutions are on display at the Glasgow Science Museum. I was happy to see my friends from the British Board of Deputies and the Eco-Synagogue initiative there, which this Shabbat, has 40 communities from across the religious spectrum participating in vegetarian meals, green sermons and even one or two guest speakers from Israel. on environmental and climate issues.

The conference started on Halloween, which was a bit unsettling. The colorful costumes on the streets have since disappeared, but the conference’s most colorful participants, wearing feathered headdresses, are from indigenous tribes around the world whose cultures and ability to live are perhaps most threatened.

More promises are being made: ending deforestation by 2030, cutting emissions by nearly half by 2030, providing access to clean and affordable energy for all by 2030, increasing investment in green energy and climate solutions, and that wealthy nations $ 100 billion a year is given for poor nations to adapt and mitigate. As someone in the solar energy business, I was happy to hear everyone finally sing our song.

In Paris, many promises were also made and almost none were kept. So the new round of high expectations is heard with more skepticism but also with a different sense of despair, as we are basically out of time. The Ghana booth has a digital climate clock that is rapidly counting backwards into the second, essentially seven years, marking the point of no return if emissions are not cut in half by then.

One of the other differences between Paris and Glasgow is the young activists, who here are the bright hope and perhaps the most articulate about their threatened future. Many of the world’s leaders have mentioned them and their future. Many have been assigned prime-time slots on the show. If in Paris we were all moved by the danger of polar bears, in Glasgow we are concerned about our children. But I think they succeeded, as long as our leaders follow them.

I have to get up very early tomorrow to attend my morning meetings and I’m dreading the long line in the cold to actually get into the Blue Zone. What really worries me is that if the world can’t figure out how to speed up entry into the climate conference, how are we going to accelerate the rollout of renewable energy at a rate that saves our sore planet?

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