It seems to me that COP26 is doomed to fail. Aside from strikes, dirty streets and piles of rubbish, the fact is that neither China nor Russia – the largest and fourth largest carbon emitters respectively – are taking the conference seriously.
The change in note from Boris Johnson is stark. For months he travelled the world, from Cornwall to New York, championing and gleefully boasting about how the conference would be a turning point for humanity. In recent days, however, it is clear even his inherent optimism has started to fade, with many of his statements essentially prefacing failure.
Comments like “it’s going to be very, very tough, this summit, and I’m very worried because it might go wrong. We might not get the agreements that we need” are not the remarks of a man confident of his own ability to save “this precious blue sphere” as he once called it at the UN General Assembly.
Some have argued that maybe Johnson is actually expecting some success and is instead simply making the task sound harder so he can claim greater credit, allowing him to gloat at Keir Starmer after the summit. But the surrounding facts do not support this.
Whilst countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have recently made some welcome promises regarding emissions targets, anyone who has been paying attention in the West and the rest of the world knows they cannot be trusted on any issue, let alone the climate.
Symptomatic of this is China’s current ramping up and intensification of its domestic coal production just two weeks after promising to end the building of coal power stations abroad. Most outrageously, despite lecturing the world about its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060, domestically China still plans to build 43 new coal power plants and 18 blast furnaces – more than the rest of the world combined. Sparing his blushes, it is probably in the best interests of China’s President Xi Jinping that he will not be attending.
As if things were not going badly enough already, yet another bump in the road hit the summit this week when it was announced that due to ill health and the risk of covid that the Queen would not be attending the event. Whilst not lacking in ability himself, Johnson will not doubt be frustrated that she will no longer be rolled out to charm, wine and dine some of the hundreds of dignitaries and world leaders visiting Glasgow.
Nevertheless, despite these absences, those stragglers that are lucky enough to attend can look forward to Glasgow’s rats, filthy streets and overflowing bins – a much more immediate environmental crisis: a consequence of the Scottish National Party’s inept management of the city. Paris it is not.
When you cannot even clean your own backyard, it is a bit much to try and sort out the world.