COP 26 has proved to be about fine sounding words and little action

photo by Frank Jordans/AP: pro-climate crowd outside the COP 26 venue

Contributed by Jim Hayes

The COP 26 clmate4 conference in Glasgow has proved a disappointment for those who were hoping for a change to real action to combat the climate threat.

Greta Thunberg’s “blah., blah, blah commend was prophetic. As the speakers lined up and talked about the need to do more than just talk, COP 26 proved to exactly this, many pretty words, and no commitment to do anything substantial. It proved, yet again, that the heads of state and chiefs of giant corporations who dominated COP 26 proceedings used the event as a photo shot, a cheap propaganda trick to make them look good, and that they can’t be relied upon.

Thunberg, who had after all, not been invited to speak was in the audience and brought a great deal of attention, by thanking the assembled leaders for the “greenwash” and walking out. Greenwash is the term for pretending to care for the environment to turn attention away from the fact you are doing nothing about it.

Mark Carney, vice chair and head of impact investing at Brookfield Asset Management and former governor of the privately owned Bank of England was speaking at the time. Carney championed the “voluntary Carbon Market,” as the way to lower carbon emissions. This is the already discredited tax credit system where corporations can buy or sell their rights to create carbon.

Photo from Getty: Mike Carney played a prominent role at COP 26

Carney’s involvement was a reminder of the high profile role given to bankers, investors, and insurers, at the official COP 26 conference. The pitch was for a corporate led reaction to global warming and reliance on the market.

United States President Joe Biden was supposed to go to Glasgow with a Green New Deal. It turned out to be mired in the same market led recovery, providing lucrative business opportunities through $550 billion in tax incentives.

Outside, Thunberg told the crowd of the failure inside to give leadership. She said that change will have to be made by those  actively involved outside gatherings of heads of state.

More than a million people signed an open letter from Thunberg in which she demands that leaders ”face the climate emergency.“

Greta Thunberg speaks to the crowd outside the Cop 26 venue

There has been no shift on the past failed response, which has already condemned the world to a 1.5C increase in temperature.

Critics point out that the only major difference now, is that all political leaders know  what is happening. Most continue to refuse to act, and this amounts to criminal neglect.

COP 26 organisers made a point of excluding environmentalist organisations from participation. They, along with trade unions and community organisations took part in alternate activities in Glasgow and around the world.

The failure of governments to move forward meaningfully is spelt out in the outcomes listed in a one page statement. Below are the most important.

  • A pledge of 40 countries to stop funding fossil fuel projects with built in exceptions. The United States, Great Britain, Japan  currently finance 87 percent of current global coal. There can be no progress without putting the greatest responsibility here.
  • Establish a fund of $US100 billion to help poor nations to make a transition, which is nowhere near enough to be effective. This would require a larger amount. The history of previous commitments is that they are not made, and that most of the funding provided has gone to finance corporate projects that have fallen short of the mark.
  • The carbon trading scheme will be provided with  $US130 trillion in loans from corporate financial institutions, as the cornerstone of the market led strategy. With this, the climate debate will be turned into a profit opportunity for some. without the guarantee of a tangible carbon reduction result in the end. The paradox is that these same corporate financial institutions are the financiers of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel dependent economy. They are not going to put their money in projects promising a negative impact on their bottom line.
  • More than 100 countries have signed a pledge to reduce methane output.

This result will go to negotiators to hammer out further details.

Extinction Rebellion participant holds up Green Washing sign

The climate crisis will not be overcome through a corporate led recovery. This requires a major commitment by governments to play a leading role in a major economic restructure. National  economies and the global economy must be reshaped  through a coordinated plan that accounts for  all linkages and priorities carbon reduction over private profit. Concentrating on isolated projects, even the best intentioned, will not be enough.

Climate action that results in lowering living standards and eliminates jobs will not generate public support, which is another necessary ingredient for success.

Scientists are telling us that unless the status quo of non-action ends soon, the world will be set for a temperature increase of at least 3.7C. This could be enough to ensure environmental collapse widespread extinction, economic collapse, a major shortage of food and water, and towards the breakdown of society as we know it, and the death of millions.

The window of opportunity to stop it is small. The rest of us must rise to the occasion and make change happen.

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