Features Australia

The bear should have won

It was an Oscar-worthy COP26

13 November 2021

9:00 AM

13 November 2021

9:00 AM

We don’t go to the movies much notwithstanding the lure of a choc-top and a couple of hours of comfortable seating. It’s partly because I’d rather Marie Kondo my drawers than sit through some insipid woke Hollywood flick telling me what to think.

For some strange reason we did front up to the local cinema to sit through a movie entitled The Revenant. That rugged snow-covered landscape in the promos was a drawcard as well as the advertised theme of revenge. Too much revenge is never enough, after all.

The lead actor is Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most progressive American actors around. But the good thing is that early on in the film, he is nearly knocked off by a hungry bear, after which he only mutters a few words. One of his team members double-crosses him and Leo (to his friends) drags himself over vast (picturesque) terrains so he can get back at him.

You might be asking yourself how that thin plot-line can take up an hour and half; I’m not quite sure, having had a well-deserved kip at a certain point. But here’s the most amazing thing: when those wokest of woke awards, the Oscars, came around that year, Leo took out the gong for best actor. What a disgrace, I thought.  The bear was a much more compelling actor than Leo.

I mention Leo now because he was one of the lead acts at the Glasgow COP26 climate shindig. We can only presume that Leo wasn’t there because of his deep knowledge of climate science or his understanding of the economics of climate policies. He obviously was there because he cares about the future of the planet and the event organisers – yep, I can get with the lingo – saw promotional value in having him around. I think it’s called ‘star power’.

Now obviously we couldn’t expect Leo to travel on a commercial flight, but on this occasion, the word is he did just that. He must have known that cranky commentators like me would be watching.


Mind you, there were a lot of other attenders – let’s call them the Davos set – who didn’t follow Leo’s lead. In the first week of the conference, there were some 400 private jets parked outside Glasgow. Important people have to move around the globe quickly, you have to appreciate. There are other important people to see, deals to be done, money to be made, indulgences to be indulged.

The fact that private jets are among the most emissions-intensive form of travel is, well, inconvenient. The most common type of Gulfstream aircraft emits as much CO2 in five hours as does the typical guy or gal in Australia in a year.

But you know it makes sense for the president of the European Commission, the very European Ursula von der Leyen, to travel sixty kilometers by private jet to get to Glasgow. It would have been so inconvenient – there’s that word again – to travel as normal folk do.

Another top student in the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do class is John Kerry, failed US presidential candidate and now US Climate Envoy and Glasgow attendee. He had the good sense to marry into money and clearly enjoys the perks arising from this decision. He and his wife currently own six homes, two yachts, twelve cars and a private jet. (Sadly, no partridge in a pear tree, as far as I can tell.) This year, he has taken 16 flights on his private jet, often popping over to Martha’s Vineyard from his base in Boston.

Even chief climate promoter for the Glasgow gabfest, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, didn’t have any qualms about using a private jet to ferry him and his wife to and from a recent, well-earned (and paid for by someone else) break in Spain. With a straight face, he told anyone interested that the jet used the most sustainable fuel available. You’d think he might have also purchased some carbon offsets, like a few trees in the Ukraine that would be spared the torture of being cut down.

Of course, a UN climate bash is never complete without a murder of preachy, self-serving billionaires. (You might not know that murder is the collective noun for billionaires – look it up.) Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world – or is that Elon Musk? – told the enthralled audience that his recent trip into space had led him to the realisation that our planet is a fragile place and has to be protected.

The fact that he had to spend billions of dollars to come to this viewpoint indicates that he may not be as smart as people think. Gosh, he could have hung out with Greta for a few moments and arrived at the same conclusion.

Australia was also represented by its own billionaire, Twiggy Forrest, who was banging on about the joys of green hydrogen to anyone who would listen. The fact that we are years off achieving green hydrogen projects at scale is a fact that is quickly glossed over. It’s the dream that counts (and the government subsidies).

Getting back to movies, the Glasgow confab really has all the features of a great film plot based on the twin themes of blackmail and extortion. You know the sort of thing: ‘hand over the money or the kid gets it’.

I now have a degree of admiration for Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, who clearly understands the climate vibe. His pledge for India to reach net zero emissions by 2070 is an excellent device to keep his country in the game. But forget $US100 billion a year from developed countries, the figure of $1 trillion is now required to encourage developing countries to decarbonise.

That’s right – forget the unachieved 100 bill, we need ten times that figure to participate in this massive and unproven experiment. I guess the trill is an ambit figure, but it surely shines the light on the hypocrisy of most leaders of the West; if they really want developing countries to forgo efficient and convenient (I think that word might be a virus) fossil fuels, then they will have to stump up for the costs.

It’s only right and fitting that this column should finish with a quote from that modern day Joan of Arc, Greta, who eruditely summed up Glasgow as ‘a Global North greenwash festival: a two week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah’. I’m betting that blah, blah, blah will be the Macquarie Dictionary’s next word of the year.

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