I don't usually weigh in on world affairs here. I think about them, of course, as most of us do. Talk with friends. Take action where I can, particularly locally, and try to live low-impact ("no impact" is unattainable, of course; the name of my blog was always intended to be aspirational and playful, by the way, not prescriptive). But this feels different. The climate crisis makes it different.
So I'll start with this. Perhaps like you, I feel frustrated, disappointed and powerless as I watch this latest climate conference unfold. I feel a sort of national shame that Australia's prime minister fronted up with the bare minimum in terms of a climate policy, what amounted to "the price of admission" to Glasgow.Sir David Attenborough and Barack Obama - then failing to make rock-solid commitments that will stop global temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
There have been big gains made this time, I know. Historic agreements to reduce deforestation, methane emissions and investment in coal and increase funding to Indigenous conservation projects. It's not just governments making promises: hundreds of financial institutions in 45 countries agreed to limit greenhouse emissions.Glasgow Declaration, which urges tourism businesses of all kinds and sizes all over the world to reduce emissions by half by 2030. You can read my news stories about it and what it means for travellers here and here, and my interview with one of its chief architects and co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, Jeremy Smith, here.
Is it all enough?
According to the International Energy Agency's latest analysis, if all the promises from COP26 are kept, and funded, the planet may not warm more than 1.8C by the end of this century. But it's a big "if", particularly when China and Russia didn't even attend this year's make-or-break conference.
What I keep coming back to in the midst of this fragile hope is that, powerful as world leaders are, the real leaders in this crisis are emerging from elsewhere. They're students like Greta. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, even multinational CEOs (and CSOs - Chief Sustainability Officers, it's a thing now!). They're already doing things some governments keep saying are impossible. In some industries, governments just need to get out of the way - oh, and stop subsiding the global fossil fuel industry to the tune of $500 billion a year.
WatchGreta Thunberg: A year to change the world is an excellent 3-part BBC doco now streaming on ABCiView (in Australia). It's full of insights and experts talking about what's happening to our planet, and what needs to happen to reverse that. And at the centre of it all is the now 18-year-old Swedish student who remains quietly powerful and incredibly human and open about things like her discomfort with crowds and chaos.
With every speech at every protest march and every conference, she fine-tunes her message: listen to the science, not to her, about what we need to do. I'm in awe of her.
I'll also read anything written by environmental author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot, like this story last week: COP26 has to be about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. All else is distraction.