It is finally here: The 27th and last chance (no, really, this time) to save the world. That is, after all, how our leaders would like us to see COP 27, and how much of our media will cover it.
In the imaginations of the great and the good, COP 27 and the 26 COPs before it show humanity at its best: The wise leaders of our world putting national interests to one side to secure the future of humanity. That’s why it draws all the celebs, and the politicians, and the religious leaders, and the activists: Nobody wants to miss out on being part of history. “I was there“, they can say, “when we finally took the tough decisions that saved our planet“. If you missed out, well, you missed out.
Though, if you really want another chance, you can already buy tickets, or schedule your private Jet, to COP 28, next year, in, of all places, the United Arab Emirates – a country where 26% of GDP is generated by the production of oil and gas.
There is no international event covered with more solemnity and seriousness by the Irish media every year than the annual “conference of parties”.
The proceedings are covered with a reverence reserved, in days gone by, for a eucharistic congress. The pattern of these events is much the same every year: They start with high hopes that this time, at last, a great planet-saving breakthrough will be made. The speeches are all of the aspirational kind – “if we work together we can do this” – and the talks themselves tend to devolve into rows about how the world is not working together really, and how various countries need more aid (read “bribes”) to do their bit.
Then, in the end, some old pledges will be re-heated, there will be some talk of “progress” and “a renewed commitment”, and everyone will fly home feeling better about themselves.
Anyway, here’s a thought: Is COP now entirely self-defeating? Think about what the respective groups interested in this subject get from this week.
If you are, like me, somebody who views all of this climate stuff as unnecessarily alarmist and more than a little cult-like, COP is the best week of the year: It’s the week when all the people who lecture us endlessly about our lifestyles show themselves up for absolute hypocrites. The runways of Egypt are lined with private Jets. The dinners served up are fit for Kings. The whole thing is sponsored by – you couldn’t make this up – Coca Cola, one of the world’s worst plastic polluters. Next year’s one, as I mentioned, is hosted by one of the world’s biggest oil producers. If you’re a stand up comedian, you couldn’t ask for better material.
And what do you get out of it, if you’re a Climate Activist? Nothing, I’d argue. You get the same thing you get every year: Deliberately vague promises of “action” and “commitment”, along with intentionally vague targets, and rows about who will pay for it all.
Set COP against the things we’ve seen recently: Increasingly unhinged Climate Activists doing increasingly unproductive things – glueing themselves to artworks, blocking roads, spraying buildings with paint. And against some other things: The huge increase in oil prices, the rise in the cost of living, the war in Ukraine.
These do not paint a picture of a movement that is winning over the public. As you read this, Americans are going to the polls. It is likely that they will elect a Republican Majority that will put an end to any American pledges on CO2 emissions for at least the next two years, and probably longer than that. Any promises Joe Biden, for example, makes this week, are moot. The next Republican US President will expand, not cut back on, coal and oil and gas and fossil fuels. China does not have elections, but they too are expanding their use of these things. And ask yourself: How much does one V Putin, esquire, concern himself about the Climate, these days? Those are the three most powerful countries on earth, by most people’s reckoning. I’m not entirely sure they’re taking this seriously.
But all these people, with the possible exception of the Russians, will be at COP this week, shaking hands and greenwashing themselves and pledging, no doubt, to subsidise more wind turbines and plant a few more trees and direct more foreign aid to building wind turbines in the third world – so long as that aid is used to pay European and American companies.
Ask yourself: In the current climate, are they really going to come home and ask their voters to make yet more sacrifices for mother earth? Not on your life.
No, what we’ll get this week are re-heated promises and pledges of progress which, of themselves, are entirely insufficient to accomplish what “the science” says we need to accomplish. Global “Net Zero” remains a pipe dream.
COP, then, is a way to placate a shrinking segment of the electorate, while making yourself look elitist and hypocritical to everyone else. If they had sense, they’d pack it in. But they don’t have sense, so it’s on, next year, to the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps the Arabs can give them all a tour of their new, eco-friendly, oil wells.