High fives and socially distanced sound clips dominate the media opportunity for politicians that is COP26. This does not mean that this is all a waste of time, far from it. But people know how to pose around the event with a pinch of salt.
It’s a political speechwriter‘s dream. âWe are digging our own graves,â the UN said. Another catchy phrase referred to our âmoment of truthâ. It’s “either up to us to stop it or it will stop us,” said another. Queen Elizabeth urged everyone to “act now for our children”, while Boris Johnson described it as “one minute before midnight on the doomsday clock”.
The event seems to be aimed primarily at grabbing the attention of political leaders, while also raising awareness in a very legitimate and positive way among the general public about the issues of climate change.
It’s hard not to be skeptical about some of the commitments that are being made. Once stripped down you must be wondering what they really mean. The publicity around the Paris Agreement in 2015 was enormous. The commitments seemed to portray a real sense that governments were taking the climate change emergency seriously. But were they?
Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the agreement. US President Joe Biden overturned the Trump decision and arrived in Glasgow, more or less saying, âSorry about all of this. We are back on the right track â. Yet more Americans voted for Donald Trump in the election he lost than any previous candidate in the history of the United States.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged in Glasgow to bring his country to net zero emissions by 2070. The 71-year-old would be 120 years old at this point and it’s safe to say he probably won’t be in government.
Several of the most forested countries pledged to end deforestation. But it won’t happen until 2030. So it’s cut off until then. This pledge echoes a similar pledge made in 2014, but Brazil’s forests, for example, continue to be destroyed on a large scale.
Some of this deforestation continues to produce inexpensive animal feed that is exported around the world. The actions of each country have repercussions elsewhere.
Take Norway, one of the leading representatives of electric vehicles. This is because electric vehicles there are not subject to road tax, have free charging, and a series of other state-subsidized incentives for people to buy them. Yet Norway remains the largest per capita exporter of fossil fuels in the world.
Few of us are above the accusations of hypocrisy that come with the commitments and the battle to tackle climate change. Taoiseach MicheÃ¡l Martin is in Glasgow to talk about what Ireland is going to do, but we have been completely behind in reducing our own emission reduction targets.
Five years ago, we were developing food production and expansion strategies based on the belief of farmers to borrow money to increase their dairy herds after the end of restrictive EU milk quotas.
We are now talking about the size of the national herd as a major obstacle to achieving emission reduction targets. The farmers are blamed, but you must have sympathy for the dairy farmers in particular who have invested heavily in their businesses on the basis of a government strategy for the sector.
The government is nervous about saying that the national herd will have to be cut, so it talks more about âstabilizationâ of the herd. Does that mean keeping it at current levels, or does it actually mean reducing it? While this is not to say right now, people know, including the farmers themselves, that we will not meet the targets unless the herd numbers are reduced.
At some point, this debate will shift towards compensation rather than maintaining an error of reducing methane and ammonia levels while simultaneously increasing the number of herds.
This is where the question of honesty comes in. There is a complete lack of honesty and realism about what is needed to necessary transition. Big companies have strived to reduce carbon emissions, not so much to save the planet, but to comply with regulations and ensure they have a business in the future.
Some are just greenwashing relying on questionable carbon credits. So that all the sound clips that make the headlines emerge from COP26, the real challenge is to get people’s attention.
The Financial Time published a compelling story on Monday citing a study that found that climate change could bring nearly unlivable conditions to three billion people by 2070.
Imagine the human cost, not only of poverty or famine, but of the displacement of millions of people to other parts of the world. I would be 102 at this point and probably wouldn’t see it. My children would be 62 and 59 years old.
When published, the story was only the third most read story on the FT website that day, behind “Barclays chief Jes Staley resigns over Epstein investigation” and “junior lawyers are working longer hours as demand continues to rise.”
The competition for attention is fierce, especially around 2070.
A lady in a vox pop on RTÃ Radio 1 said the other morning that she was considering renovating her house, not to save the planet, but because “the draft coming in would cut your legs.” At least she’s being honest.