Is COP26 Counter-Productive?
Nov 09 2021
COP26, taking place in Glasgow this week and next, is billed as the most significant climate conference since the Paris summit in 2015. It’s here that world leaders and delegates from almost 200 nations across the globe are expected to gather together, with the explicit goal of capturing the evidence of weather impact and climate change and limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C.
But despite these lofty intentions, there are very real concerns among environmentalists that COP26 is nothing more than an opportunity for politicians to pay lip service to the idea of sustainability, all the while continuing their environmentally damaging policies at home and abroad. Indeed, the very event itself has also been attacked as being counterproductive to its own aims. Here’s why.
Assembling delegates from all four corners of the Earth is no mean feat and one which necessarily entails a significant amount of air travel – along with all of the emissions associated with the industry. That in itself is cause for outcry among many of the conference’s critics, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has exacerbated matters by admitting he plans to take a private plane back to London after its conclusion rather than the train. If even domestic delegates aren’t bothered about committing to eco-friendly forms of travel, how can their international counterparts be expected to do so?
The organisers of COP26 made an encouraging announcement prior to the event when they signalled they would not be accepting investment or sponsorship from any companies who had not published short-term plans to achieve net-zero emissions. Nonetheless, they have seen fit to accept money from banking giants NatWest, whose owners RBS have been historic funders of fossil fuels contributing over $1 billion between 2015 and 2017 alone. Jaguar Land Rover, who is providing electric vehicles (EVs) for the event, are also responsible for the surge in sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and continue to aggressively market that polluting form of getting around.
As well as Johnson’s gaffe over getting back to No. 10 Downing Street, his government have failed to back up their high-minded speeches about being world leaders on climate change with tangible proposals. Indeed, the most recent budget announced billions of spending on enhancing Britain’s road network, cancelling increases on fuel duties and scrapping taxes on air travel – all without even a single mention of the environment. As long as the UK continues to support fossil fuel projects and pursue airport expansion plans, it cannot call itself an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Lastly, COP26 might have brought together a staggering number of world leaders, but those conspicuous by their absence are perhaps more damaging to its credibility than those in attendance. Chinese premier Xi Jinping won’t back down on domestic coal combustion, Australia’s Scott Morrison stubbornly refuses to acknowledge any solutions other than technological ones, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro continues to decimate the Amazon Rainforest for personal gain and Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s environmental policies leave much to be desired. With the exception of the Australian premier, none of those leaders are in Glasgow, suggesting that little meaningful progress will be made by those nations whose commitment is needed the most.
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