Taking stock of climate talks in Glasgow

Ron Martino's point of view on the COP26 in Glasgow

Allies and Partners

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

"I'm feeling somewhat optimistic about COP26"

Despite the fact that thousands of young people led by Greta Thunberg and others protesting what they see as inadequate response by the conference, I’m feeling somewhat optimistic about COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

I’m most encouraged by corporate and financial firm pledges. I know a lot of it is greenwashing — companies talking green but working brown. But the number of pledges is big; lots of it will stick and others will follow.

COP26 has also brought new commitments on phasing out coal, restricting public oil and gas finance, fighting deforestation and much more. At least 450 global businesses promised to reduce their carbon footprints.

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a network of banks and other investors, has pledged more than $130 trillion of capital and is “committed to transforming the economy for net zero.” Businesses will be rewarded or punished financially based on how good they are as climate citizens.

On Tuesday, global leaders announced that more than 100 countries had signed a pledge to reduce their methane emissions 30% by 2030.

Locally, there are lots of natural gas leaks in Newburyport, Salem, Haverhill and Amesbury. They are not as bad as what caused the explosions in Lawrence, but we pay for all that lost gas and we should demand the utilities clean it up.

A drop in demand for oil and gas will reshape the geopolitical landscape, and countries and companies that are slow to reduce fossil fuel use are likely to suffer. Early movers toward renewable sources will profit. Because it will reduce our dependence of Middle East oil, it will reduce our need to engage there militarily.

"How can we work locally and act personally?"

With all this “thinking globally” at COP26, what about completing the axiom? How can we work locally and act personally to confront the climate emergency?

Newburyport has been working for years building resiliency to climate change. We are designated a Massachusetts ”Green Community” as are local neighbor towns. Donna Holaday and city councils have done a lot of good things for the environment, from recycling to solar power, to coastal armoring. But our wider community can do more.

Buses are a great climate solution vs. auto use and the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority could raise its aspirations for increased ridership and innovative route flexibility. MassPort needs to open bus routes from here to Logan Airport. Maybe, a Logan Express/downtown express depot from Newburyport’s bus lot on Interstate 95 can be started.

Newburyport loves its trees and trees sequester CO2. But why not partner with businesses to plant more?

There could be hundreds more in the Lord Timothy Dexter Business Park. Maybe our Tree Commission and the Friends of Newburyport Trees can call for volunteers and find grants to boost the number of tree plantings on Arbor Day, April 29.

Maybe, the student leaders of the Tree Walk program at Maple Crest Farm in West Newbury can extend the model to Newburyport’s parks and streets.

Climate change has affected the global food system. It won’t recover overnight even with good COP26 news. We need to grow more food locally, designate more community garden space, and encourage year-round vertical farming under solar grow lights in old factories along the Merrimack. Consider more Essex County oyster farming.

With a new mayor who has educational chops, and several new School Committee and City Council members who are environmentalists, maybe we can find a way to transition to electric school buses. The solar farm to be built on our old landfill could produce the energy for them.

"Let’s make more locally"

Global supply chains for manufactured goods have proven fragile. Let’s make more locally. Shoes, clothing and furniture have deep roots in our region.

Seek out ways to make more here and not “over there.” Start with reuse, repair and repurposing, and create new small-business incubators for more businesses like Mill 77 and Design of Mine.

The world is big and Greater Newburyport and New England are much smaller. But with a strong wind in our sails from COP26 and U.S. infrastructure funding, everyone can help make climate care a reality.

We can't just talk. We all need to do our parts.

We all should feel energized by the big inflection point in human history that COP26 will come to represent. But we can’t just talk environmentalism. We all need to do each of our parts if it’s to be made real.

Pick something you love, whether it’s gardening with bees and butterflies in mind or making preserves like your granny did. Go thrifting for your next item of clothing. It’s a good way to help the environment. Refinish some used furniture for resale. Join the Tinkerhaus on Graf Road and learn how to make things.

And let’s all be grateful for COP26. It’s an event that will still be written in the history books when your grandkids have grandkids.

Ron Martino lives in Newburyport. He is an adviser and mentor to and publishes “GreenTalk Daily” on Twitter @ronmartino4.

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Ron Martino

After a career in Marketing for science and high tech based corporations, Ron is a member of the Marketing Communications Team of the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards (ACES) where he often focuses on our communication strategies both in traditional and social media.

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