The UN’s annual climate summit is underway, and it opened with a dire warning from several heads of state. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged world leaders to take this moment seriously. “And it’s time to say, enough,” Guterres insisted. “Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.”
Leaders from all over the world met in Glasgow on Monday to discuss a plan of action for the worsening climate crisis. Some notable leaders will be missing the event. China’s President Xi Jinping is absent, despite China being the top emissions-producing country in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin is also skipping the event, as is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During the opening ceremony, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson injected some humor by comparing the world’s current predicament to the fictional superspy James Bond. Johnson likened climate change to a ticking time bomb and insisted that there isn’t much time left to act. Like Bond, world leaders need to be decisive and swift to escape their fate, the PM said.
“Let’s do enough to save our planet and our way of life,” Johnson intoned, calling on world leaders to embrace their duty of taking care of the planet we all call home.
The summit’s opening ceremony also included a speech from Kenyan climate organizer Elizabeth Wathuti. “Over two million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation,” Wathuti told the delegates, highlighting the impact climate change has on the real world.
The presence of climate activists on the panel speaks to a growing impatience among the general public. World leaders have known about climate change for over 30 years, yet drastic action has only recently become a talking point. How much longer will it take for climate action to become policy?
That impatience has boiled over in some places. Protesters in Glasgow dressed up as world leaders Monday morning to lampoon their perceived lack of urgency. Bagpipe-wielding activists held up signs that read “hot air” and masqueraded as Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, and others.
The message of COP26’s opening ceremony is clear: it’s time to do or die. This is the “last, best chance” world governments must meaningfully address the climate crisis before it’s too late. Talking about policy won’t change things. Every country needs to take steps to address the climate crisis for things to get better.