COP26: Full of hot air.

I don’t know a lot about climate change. I certainly don’t know enough about it , and that’s on me. I need to do better. I need to do the small things that each of us can do. Things like recycling, minimising or eliminating food waste, buying locally sourced goods to reduce the carbon footprint. Saving energy, using public transport, etc, etc. Each small action and lifestyle change helps in a small way.

However, even if every one of us makes these small changes, it won’t do much to slow the breakneck speed with which we are approaching a climate disaster. For that, we need bigger changes in government policy and corporate practices.

Enter #COP26. The Conference of the Parties Climate summit happening in Glasgow this week. Similar summits have been held around the world for years. This is the 26th time. It’s also the first time I’ve heard of it happening at all, which says something about how affective the previous ones have been. Take a look at the wikipedia page for COP; most years, all they list is where the meeting took place, but no major achievements. COP3, 1997, did produce the Kyoto Protocols, and COP21, 2015, gave us the Paris Agreement. The COP’s in the years following each of these were generally about watering down the goals they set.

So here we are again. Boris Johnson hosting a climate conference. For the last month, he has been giving speeches about the dire state of the environment, and the necessity of major changes. I usually tune out BoJo’s speeches, but these took me by surprise; I have never heard this from him before. And that’s because he’s never said it before.

Johnson has a long record as a Climate Change sceptic. He has dismissed warnings, repeatedly referenced climate change deniers, and as an MP, consistently voted against green initiatives. So where has his new-found climate evangelism come from?

BoJo has not had a good time as Prime Minister. He’s the type of politician to bluster his way through, but got stuck dealing with the Pandemic, which could not be argued with. He has been late with every measure to curb the spread of Covid, not learning the value of early action even after nearly 2 years. Brexit, the issue that lifted him to power, has not gone well. The country is facing ongoing supply shortages through at least the winter. The question of Northern Ireland is still unsettled and threatens to destabilise the Good Friday Agreement, one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. Boris is looking for a new soapbox to shout from.

Sadly, he does not really have a grip on the topic. His speech to open the conference likened the current situation to James Bond strapped to a Doomsday device. He also referred to James Bond as Scotland’s favourite fictional son. BoJo was producing an absolute avalanche of waffle with this speech. If he had delivered the speech in front of a wind turbine, he could have powered Glasgow for a month.

Perhaps I’m being defeatist, but I don’t have a lot of hope for this climate conference. Everyone is agreed the something must be done, but I don’t think they have the political will to actually do it. Big changes in policy and in enforcement need to happen, but these changes will be very expensive. Politicians will lose their political donations if they have to take money from the rich in the form of taxes. They will lose the support of corporations when they start fining them breaching environmental restrictions and legislating that they clean up their mess. It requires a political courage that is in very short supply.

As with every aspect of BoJo’s premiership, Brexit, Covid, Climate, I think things are going to get worse before he sees the need to do better.

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