The situation for planet earth was looking bleak. There was more of those dangerous heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere than ever before (and the records could go back way beyond the bounds of human history, looking into the earth, the oceans and the ice.) The planet had become a hothouse. The ice at the poles was melting, sea level was rising, islands disappearing under the waves. Permafrost was thawing, buildings and pipelines collapsing. Forests were burning. There were floods, droughts, typhoons, you name it. The oceans were becoming acidic. Coral reefs had all gone white. Species were moving wherever they could. Or dying out, because they couldn’t move fast enough – or had nowhere to go. The fish were all in the wrong places. Jelly fish were taking over the warming North Sea. Polar bears were eating reindeer, because the ice where they used to hunt seals was melting fast.
While people in poorer nations were battling hunger and thirst, the citizens of wealthier realms were revolting because the price of petrol had gone sky-high – and they were being done out of their cheap flights for weekends in the sun.
The magic meeting
Then the leaders of the world came together in an unlikely location. Glasgow in Scotland, once a key location in the world of the industrial revolution, later a centre of the North Sea oil industry now set to become a fossil in its own right. A city seeking to re-establish itself as a hub of the clean and green– in a Scotland striving for independence from its bigger English neighbour.
Alas – from the point of view of the Scots’ bold leader Nicola – not she, but British Boris was playing host. A bit of a bumbler, but this turned out to be the meeting that saved his English bacon. He talked down the meeting beforehand – just in case. Then he amazed them all. Where it looked like his government had been unprepared and was not up to the daunting task, it turned out this was a carefully crafted illusion. Behind the scenes of world affairs, he had persuaded the key players to work some miracles.
Dreams and Deals
The US-President had started off his reign as the climate champion, but fallen foul of the realities of a misconstrued version of the American dream – SUVs, fast food, throwaway just about everything… and the greed of the fossil fuel giants, who were no way going to give up profits for the sake of … anything. His Green Deal was being blocked, his plans foiled – then it dawned on his opponents that all those forest fires, heatwaves, floods and droughts were going to devastate the economy and kill even more people than even that pesky virus had taken out. So Joe came to Scotland with a full package of measures to become the climate leader of the world, including emissions reduction targets starting in 2025 and toughening up every two years until net-zero was reached in 2050.
On thin ice
Russia would not be outdone by its arch-rival. Apart from anything else, its infrastructure in the Arctic north was collapsing with the thawing permafrost, zombie wildfires playing havoc and heatwaves and pollution crippling its cities. The ice-free Arctic shipping routes remained attractive, but since those were already guaranteed by the CO2 already in the atmosphere, it seemed like a good time to make an about-turn and go along with the COP26 resolution. Since these were to include severe financial and trade penalties for any country that continued to produce, burn or subsidise fossil fuels, this could only be a win-win option.
How the other half shifts
India, the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, changed its position after the wealthier nations agreed to double their funding asap to help developing countries transform their energy systems, stop burning coal and oil and adapt to the climate impacts already hitting the country.
Brazilian Bolsonaro had seen the light – in spite of the smoke from the fires destroying the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the planet, turning our key carbon sink into a greenhouse heater. Protecting all that would be of far more value to his country – and the world – than soy plantations to feed cattle and heat the world even further.
Saudi-Arabia abandoned its attempts to lobby for the emissions targets to be weakened and fossil fuels re-instated as a harmless, world-saving commodity. Realising that it could produce and sell even more energy from sun and wind, the image of a new, green hub in the Middle East it had been promoting ahead of the meeting had become more attractive than ever.
Bad boy turned good
Australia, once the paradise down-under, full of kangaroos and koalas, exotic birds and the World Heritage Great Barrier reef had turned into a bit of a hellish nightmare, with bushfires, floods and polluted seas. Still, they dug for more and more coal, and burned it, and exported it – until the fairytale meeting. A few days before it, premier Scottie had a vision. Fields of solar-power modules, wind turbines, water, tidal power, cities free of car fumes, tourists flocking in to see the revitalized reef with its wealth of fish, turtles, dolphins. He told Boris’s conference not only would his continent pay lip service and go carbon-neutral by 2050 – his delegation had brought along plans to reduce emissions by more than half by 2029 – and could 1.4 degrees Celsius be an option?
An oriental tale
The Chinese chief was staying at home, protecting himself against the wicked virus and saving all the emissions he and his entourage would have caused by flying across the world. He worked some eastern magic, by sending a video message that his country, the world’s biggest emitter (because it is home to the most people) and an economic superpower, would bring its deadline forward after all to be carbon neutral by 2045. Not only would they stop building coal-fired power plants abroad. Seeing how climate change was threatening their vast territory, their food and water supplies and the livelihood of its nearly one and a half billion people, they would introduce a moratorium on the use of fossil fuels and shift investment to wind, solar and hydropower. Emissions would peak by 2025 and be halved by 2030.
Oh – and the Queen went after all. All’s well that ends well. And they all lived happily ever after.