The UK will host the Cop26 environmental summit in Glasgow in November 2021, bringing political leaders from around the world together to find collective solutions to environmental problems such as air and water pollution, deforestation, and rising global temperatures.
More than 190 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions and slow the speed of global warming in 2016, but then-US President Donald Trump pulled out of the treaty within a year.
It followed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, in which 192 signatories promised to reduce emissions.
The solution is continuity of funding and effort. [The question is] how to achieve that.Professor Brian CoxProfessor Brian Cox
Both treaties had the stated aim of preventing global temperatures from rising 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say is key to minimising soaring temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather. Both have been criticised for a lack of any binding enforcement for countries to fulfil their promises.
“One sort of idealism is that we might take environmental care out of our current political system, which is run to terms of office,” said Packham. “And we’ve got party politics which are constantly in sometimes rather trivial conflict as well.
“Basically that mechanism of governance can’t deal with the longer term and investment required.”
“You’re absolutely right,” replied Cox. “The solution is continuity of funding and effort. [The question is] how to achieve that.”
“Maybe an example, directly from my field, is Cern, the Large Hadron Collider, the largest scientific experiment ever attempted, which sits under Geneva and France and is a collaboration of 80 countries around the world and was set up after the Second World War for Europe, initially, to come together in the endeavour of understanding basic science for peaceful purposes. It’s in its charter that it’s nations collaborating together for peaceful purposes.”
Cox added: “We have an extremely complex problem here. We’re talking about the governance of the planet, ultimately, aren’t we? And we’ve never governed the planet before.”
In a 90-minute conversation, Packham and Cox also discussed the wonders of earth, origins of our species, the complex relationship between politicians and science and where we go from here when tackling climate breakdown.
Read the full interview in this week’s Big Issue Earth Day 64-page special, which also includes an exclusive interview with activist Greta Thunberg.