Prime Minister Scott Morrison may attend for a time, to announce a largely symbolic agreement for net zero emissions by 2050, but all indications are that the climate conference due to kick off on Sunday 31 October in Glasgow will be a disaster that achieves nothing.
The previous meeting of the Council of the Parties, which is a fancy title for the participants in climate treaties, was bad enough as it had to be relocated twice before ending up in Madrid in 2019 only to fizzle out.
But at least Madrid was large enough to handle the thousands of activists and national climate delegations that descended on it at the last moment. This year’s much larger deluge of climate worthies, who previously had to lobby via Zoom (there was no physical conference last year) have already overwhelmed the facilities of the comparatively small city of Glasgow. In addition, just to make the delegates feel welcome in the UK, the Covid pandemic is still causing problems and the transport and refuse collection unions are threatening strike action if their wage demands are not met.
But the real problem may be that the meeting is being held in the midst of a full-blown energy crisis – a crisis brought on in large part by the green movement’s near rabid insistence on boosting unreliable renewable energy and demonising the old, reliable forms of energy, notably coal and gas.
For a host of reasons, including the economic recovery from the pandemic and Russia limiting exports through pipelines to keep gas for its own use, gas prices have skyrocketed, up to 500 per cent in Europe during October. Shortages of gas and coal are also plaguing China, in part thanks to floods disrupting domestic production. Energy is being rationed in some provinces.
The UK’s climate woes have been aggravated by an earlier, almost completely unnoticed decision, to reduce domestic storage capacity while the Covid crisis has delayed maintenance on the all-important North Sea gas rigs. The resulting shortages have been aggravated by calmer weather sharply reducing the output of the many wind turbines that have been built around the UK. One result is that coal stations in the UK are being restarted.
With winter fast approaching and families everywhere having to find money to pay big heating bills or freeze in their own homes, and an unrelated shortage of truck drivers also restricting deliveries to supermarkets and fuel to petrol stations, it is not a good time to start talking about the inevitable decline of coal, or the need for net zero emissions. However, that is exactly what is going to happen at this climate conference.
Prime Minister Morrison has bowed to the relentless pressure to make some sort of commitment to net zero emissions with a vague, non-binding pledge that the government will use technology to reach the goal, whatever that means. Morrison is also expected to announce an increase in its previously declared target of 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions from a 2005 base level by 2030.
This almost meaningless commitment – Morrison is unlikely to be in office by 2030, let alone 2050 – sets the tone for the conference. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has not set foot outside China for nearly two years, is not going to go to Glasgow to face questions about how his earlier promises to wind back coal consumption do not square with his country ramping up coal-fired power generation and doubling LNG imports.
Russian President Putin will also stay away, ostensibly due to concerns over Covid, and new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a likely no-show as his party will be facing Japanese voters just as the COP meeting starts.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the conference, but like the leaders of all the other developing countries, he will have his hand out for a share of the many billions of dollars the developing countries insists they must have in order to cater to the developed countries’ obsession with emissions.
This constant push by developing countries for subsidies in return for making climate promises reached a new level of hysteria at a meeting of more than one hundred developing countries in London in July which agreed that, to meet the challenges of climate change, they need $US100 billion a year initially, increasing to $US700 billion a year.
One of the primary goals developing countries such as the island nations of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu have for attending such talkfests is to get their share of that pot of gold. Difficult people who point out that the actual figures show that, far from sinking beneath the waves, the populations and even land areas of such nations have been increasing in the past few decades, will be dismissed as ‘flat earthers’ in the pay of energy companies.
Then there are the wider geopolitical issues. Russia has indicated it will swap tougher greenhouse targets if the Western powers would lift various sanctions imposed after its annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Another complication is a rather odd suggestion contained in a leaked draft resolution that the meeting encourage the production and consumption of vegan meat – a suggestion that has alarmed not only Australia, but also the likes of Argentina and Brazil.
All this lobbying and political bargaining ensures that the Glasgow meeting will simply be a repetition of all the other climate meetings with the partial exception of Paris in 2015 which at least agreed on some sort of global treaty to limit emissions, however ineffectual.
But the real fear is that the expectations generated about the conference, mostly thanks to an over-enthusiastic UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston, will be in such sharp contrast to the usual results, combined with an energy crisis, that it will become a major political setback for the UK government, and perhaps even for the broader environmental movement.
As far as the activist stormtroopers of this movement are concerned, however, the energy crisis is just the result of not having enough batteries and wind farms in place. Complaints that poor people have no money to pay for energy bills, that winters are still cold and that major employers have to lay off workers because they don’t have access to reliable energy will be dismissed as smoke generated by big energy companies.
Before the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2019 activists said that a climate emissions treaty had to be signed at the conference in order to save the world. No agreement was reached. Now the 2021 conference in Glasgow is the world’s last hope. Next year, there will be another last hope – but hopefully one not as chaotic.
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Contact Mark Lawson at www.clearvadersname.com
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