OPINION: It’s up to all of us to decide how the climate crisis ends

Peers and Zero Hour supporters following the delivery of a petition to 10 Downing Street,

Peers and Zero Hour supporters following the delivery of a petition to 10 Downing Street, calling on the Prime Minister to make a commitment to implement three climate change policies as an outcome of COP26 and COP15, as part of Zero Hour's 'Three Outcomes We Can't Live Without' campaign - Credit: PA

Prof Rupert Read from the University of East Anglia imagines our world 10 years on from November’s critical COP26 climate talks in Glasgow

“What’s the date today?” you ask out loud. The warm voice of your Smart Home responds: ‘It‘s November 12, 2031”.

You knew when you woke up, your auto-blinds whirring open to reveal the perfect blue of an autumn morning, free from the criss-cross jet trails that once divided the sky, that today felt special. Listen: even the birds are more audible.

A decade ago today, the world began to change – and, while life certainly isn’t perfect, it’s definitely… better.

Thanks to what happened after the historic COP26 summit in Glasgow, when we finally started putting our living planet first, we were able to stop our world from imploding. Just in the nick of time.

Now of course we recognise that the deep change we brought about, which seemed so drastic and unrealistic all those years ago, was not just good for the planet but good for us, for our wellbeing physically and mentally too.

We’re happier now – and it’s not just because of the cleaner air we breathe thanks to fewer cars, or the benefits of a much more locally rooted lifestyle. It’s the happiness that comes from knowing that our young people aren’t doomed – even if they do have to adapt to challenges past generations never faced.

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Of course, it wasn’t easy.

What went down on November 12, 2021, made history – but definitely not in the way our world leaders wanted.

Because they failed us. In agreeing a deal that fell so far short of the targets needed to stop catastrophic climate change, they sentenced our children and grandchildren to death. We all knew it.

And that’s when the world woke up.

We realised finally that there was no superhero about to rush in and save us from destruction. November 12, 2021, was the day we understood that we had to save ourselves.

After deadly heatwaves, intense wildfires, devastating floods – not to mention the months of rising energy prices, or the food and petrol shortages – this historic failure of leadership was the last straw, showing ordinary people that this was no way to live.

The change we stood up and struggled for then took courage. It took mass protests; direct action in the streets, as well as in our schools and universities. Stoppages in our workplaces.

Hundreds of thousands, young and old, joined together to make it happen. And then there were millions. Starting in the frustration, the fear and fury that boiled up on that afternoon in November 2021, as the world saw the fig-leaf deal covering the shame of our so-called ‘leaders’.

Many of us had never taken action before. But we found that day that we were mad as hell, and we just weren’t going to take it any more.

We knew that change was possible – the Covid-19 pandemic had proved it – and soon our governments had to take notice. They were forced to change: above all by the army of parents who lined up at long last to demand a future for their kids.

Of course, in many ways we were too late. We are still living with the climate disasters that decades of delay brought us. Only last year, in 2030, a massive sea flood in the Broads reminded us what we could still lose forever. Not to mention the crop failures brought on by the loss of so many bees, and the terrible droughts we’ve been suffering here in East Anglia.

But at least now there is some kind of a future.

Back in 2021, climate breakdown was already affecting people, ecosystems and livelihoods – across the world and closer to home. 
I still remember those first floods on the M25 and London’s tube stations: the writing on the wall. 

Things were starting to look bleak back then.

But if the Glasgow Uprising had never happened, I dread to think what life would be like now.

Rupert Read is author of Parents For A Future. He will be taking part in the Glasgow COP starting November 1

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