This article first appeared on Skid Crease’s blog Skid Crease Environmental Literacy
COP 26 wrapped up this weekend, billed at the outset as “the last great hope” to save humans from the devastating effects of accelerating climate change. When asked to summarize the rhetoric and significance of emissions reduction promises made by global political leaders at COP26 international environmental spokesperson Greta Thunberg summed it up in three words: “Blah, blah, blah.”
On November 12 officials released the draft agreement revealing that signatories to the final document have agreed to meeting tougher emissions pledges and carbon cutting targets by the end of 2022. That prompted a “we’ll wait and see” response from environmental delegates. They observed that only two countries out of over two hundred who signed the Paris Agreement managed to meet their emissions reduction goals.
That 1% success rate is not encouraging given that another 1% – actually the 0.1% of the super rich* whose fossil fuel corporate lobbyists outnumbered the environmental delegates at COP26 – control the economic agenda. When 99% of the signatories to an agreement fail to meet their obligations, it clearly reveals that the Paris Climate Accords were an abject failure.
Indeed, by Saturday, November 13 as the wording for the final COP26 agreement was being negotiated between the 197 countries in attendance, organizers feared that their first lofty goals had been watered down. In the latest draft appear “weasel words” that give “wiggle room” to fossil fuel producers and the wealthiest countries. The phasing out of coal is now accompanied by the phasing out of the “unabated” use of coal, and the removal of subsidies for the oil and gas industry is now for “inefficient” subsidies … whatever that means.
Saudi Arabia, the nation that brought us the horrifying state sanctioned murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the majority of the 911 terrorists, is once again holding the world hostage. One has to ask, “What on Earth does Saudi Arabia have over the other countries of the world that allows it to wield such power?” Violations of human rights, getting away with murder, and pushing our home planet towards a climate catastrophe seems a lot like an abusive relationship deserving of an Extreme Risk Protection Order at the least.
China with its hostage justice and human rights abuses is perhaps guiltier given its population and politics. It was touted as good news that the world’s two largest economies, the USA and China were cooperating at COP26. Yes, they were cooperating to ensure that the final agreement did not negatively impact their economic growth agendas. The reality is that once again the economy of the wealthiest humans trumps the ecology of the planet. Perhaps the feelings of the environmentally literate were summed up best by David Suzuki in a passionate interview with Piya Chattopadhyay on CBC’s The Sunday Magazine last week.
Suzuki drew several analogies that exposed the hypocrisy of government excuses and failures. He first commented on Canada’s response to the COVID-19 emergency. He noted that the Canadian government found tens of billions of dollars to fight the coronavirus pandemic and Canadians changed their behaviours to keep themselves and their communities safe. What is stopping us from changing our behaviours and finding the billions of dollars necessary to fight the climate change emergency?
Suzuki was quite clear in saying we were and continue to be sabotaged by the the fossil fuel industry’s government lobbying and public misinformation campaigns denying that the climate emergency is real. Despite Canada’s onstage promises at Paris in 2015, we came home and purchased an oil pipeline. Our justification? We needed the taxes from tar sands development and extraction to fund the move to a renewable energy economy. Suzuki drew the parallel that this was like the tobacco industry saying, “We need to sell more tobacco products so that we can collect the taxes to help us fund lung cancer research.”
He concluded passionately,“This is just nuts!”
And that’s the way I see it. ***
UPDATE: In the end, it was India, second most populous country in the world at 1.38 billion people coming in just behind China’s 1.4 billion, that was responsible for the watering down of the language surrounding the phasing out of coal. So much for keeping global temperatures from surpassing the 1.5 degree threshold. Oops.
* The 99% who aren’t ultra rich need to read Chrystia Freeland’s “Plutocrats: the rise of the new global super-rich and the fall of everyone else” and Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money”
And keep a close eye on Peter Thiel and the Koch cabal …