Rise Of Environmentalism In World Politics: Impact On COP26 – OpEd


The world has been witnessing a huge change in the global climate over the past few years. The devastating wildfires in Brazil, Australia & the USA have shocked everyone. Countries like Spain, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece have also gained the experience anew. Additionally, storms, floods, cyclones, heatwaves are multiplying around the world. Amid the global climate catastrophic situation, COP26 is going to be held in Glasgow, UK. World leaders are going to meet in Glasgow to discuss & assess the impact of climate change. But it’s a matter of great concern that the world leaders only render regular climate estimation at the COP conference every year, but they’ve never played any influential role here. In hindsight, the COP conference seems to be nothing more than a conventional discussion. Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg has repeatedly expressed this concern. In an interview, a few days ago, she boldly denounced the indifference of world leaders. She remarked, “The leaders will say, ‘We’ll do this, we’ll do this’, but ultimately they’ll do nothing”. 

If we scrutinize Greta’s statement, we glimpse the truth of it. Evidence of this can be found in the Kyoto Protocol or the Paris Agreement. World leaders have never demonstrated any interest in these two crucial initiatives. But the adverse fallouts on the climate are exactly what these leaders aren’t perceiving. Also, the industrial nations responsible for climate change don’t seem to have any cooperation. That’s why there’re deep skeptical about the success of the upcoming COP26 conference. 

Nevertheless, environmentalists like Greta are striving for a greener world. They’re constantly announcing agendas to make the environmental movement a triumph. They’re even forming a public opinion by making people aware of the environment. Even Western politicians are strengthening environmentalism as a significant issue. The popularity of the Green Party in France, Canada, Germany, Britain, Netherlands gives us that indication. That’s how environmentalists are executing their agendas around the world, which is commendable.

Although environmentalism is gaining importance in world politics nowadays, its history is very old. It emerged as a social movement at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century in Europe. However, in the 1960s, the greenism ideology was associated with environmentalism. As a result, environmentalism was given a political shape. Also, the UN recognized the environmentalism issue by organizing the Stockholm Conference in 1972. Since then, environmentalism has become an integral part of world politics. 

The specialty of the environmentalism movement is it stimulates people through scientific research. It scientifically highlights the ruinous impacts of industrialization, deforestation, carbon emissions on the global climate and human life. Even many environmental organizations like Green Peace, WWF have their science departments. This’s how researching knowledge makes people aware of the environment. Many environmental organizations have been seen doing such things before the COP26. 

Furthermore, if we stare at the scientific analysis, we’ll try to understand the significance of the environment for mankind. Science says that humans are mainly responsible for the antagonistic impacts on the environment & climate. Besides, soil, water, and air pollution aren’t only contaminating the environment, they’re also causing climate change. As a result, we regularly notice confrontations like floods, cyclones, tidal surges, etc. Moreover, threats exist between floras and faunas. This could have a detrimental consequence on the global ecosystem. Eventually, food and water shortage could escalate. According to a recent UN report, by 2050, 5 billion people will be in dire need of clean water. Also, according to WHO, 7 million people die prematurely every year due to climate change and environmental degradation. Ultimately climate upheaval is having a detrimental impact on the socio-economic system.

Another critical impact on climate change is global warming. Fossil fuels are utilized for many purposes, including industrialization, automobiles, power plant operations, etc. But excessive use of fossil fuels emits detrimental gases such as CO2, CFC, HCFC, Methane, which are responsible for global warming. So global warming is encircling the earth gradually. It’s called the ‘greenhouse’ effect. The consequence is blamed for the surge in global temperatures. As a result, the ice at the North and South Poles are melting, sea levels are bursting. Due to this, countries like Bangladesh, Maldives, Mauritius will face terrible danger. So climate fluctuation jeopardizes not only the flora and fauna but also the very existence of many countries. 

However, it’s unfortunate that the industrialized nations have never adopted any effective action. But they’re most responsible for the plight of poor countries. It seems that they’ve no obligation towards the vulnerable nations. Therefore, we can’t certainly claim that the rich nations won’t have a non-competitive attitude in the upcoming COP26. 

Notwithstanding, environmentalists aren’t silent either. Their movement to save the earth is achieving momentum day by day. They want to see COP26 be fruitful. They discern it as a challenge. Because the attention of world politics is shifting from Covid-19 to the environment. So environmentalists desire the issue of green recovery to be given more implications in this conference. Moreover, COP26 is being considered the successor to COP21. Because many aspects of the Paris Agreement (COP21) have been added here, including confining the global temperature within 1.5°C. Also, the Biden-led US is returning to the Paris Agreement. Environmentalists aspire Biden will adopt strong action on climate change. 

Furthermore, the acceptance of ecopolitics is accumulating in the Western world. Environmentalists aren’t limited to conducting campaigns, they’re active in mainstream politics. We can mention here the Green Party which is quite active in countries like Britain, Netherlands, France, Germany, Canada, etc. Although there’re no signs of coming to power, they’ve been able to urge people with the green ideology. Green Party’s excellent results in recent German elections indicate that their popularity is thriving in Europe. Moreover, the EU has endorsed environmentalism incredibly. So we can expect that the EU will play a momentous role in Glasgow.

Nonetheless, reckoning about the environment isn’t the only obligation of the Western world. Climate and environmental issues should be seen as unavoidable matters in world politics. Because not only the existence of humans and living beings is related to it but also the existence of the state. In this case, we can refer to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius who’re in the extreme nuisance of climate change. Therefore, this issue should be considered seriously in COP26.

Additionally, environmentalists are frustrated by the UN’s actions on the environment and climate. Although the UN has acknowledged such enterprises as UNEP, Brundland Commission, UNFCCC, haven’t taken any special strategy in the last 5 decades. As a result, it’ll be extremely troublesome for the UN to attain ambitious goals like the SDGs.

Moreover, environmentalists have long demanded the establishment of an environmental regime that can coordinate with the national administrations, formulate new policies, contribute to the innovation of biotechnology. 

But everything depends on the will of world leaders. Because world politics still depends on realism where the state interests come first. Besides, there’s no supranational system on Earth, so there’s no one to force the state to take drastic measures for the environment.

But environmental deterioration is going on as usual. Carbon emissions are enhancing in industrialized countries, the volume of employing fossil fuels has increased a lot compared to before. And deforestation extravaganzas are going on all around the world. That’s why climate change & global warming are endangering the world.

In conclusion, controlling climate change has become increasingly challenging. But environmentalists like Greta Thunberg are endeavoring to take on the challenge. They’re expecting the Glasgow Conference will solve all the difficulties. They’re even urging industrialized nations to endorse ambitious climate & environmental plans. It remains to be seen whether those nations will respond to that call.  

*Ashiq Iqbal Jishad is pursuing undergraduate education from the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka. His research interests include migration, transatlantic relations, Eurasian issues, European Union, and NATO affairs.

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