COP26 Cables: A Bit of Argy Bargy among Countries Seeking the Spotlight in Glasgow

A Competitive Enterprise Institute update on the international climate conference in Glasgow.

Photo Credit: Getty

My Competitive Enterprise Institute colleagues and I are filing brief cables on COP26, the international climate conference being held in Glasgow, Scotland. Below is our fifth dispatch.

TL;DR: The Chinese skipped the conference and outmaneuvered the less savvy Europeans for the end-of-week spotlight; surprise cooperation about future promises, but nothing tangible today leaves the activists and the British hosts empty-handed with only one day left of the conference. Danes and Costa Ricans make their play.

Thursday was the last chance to get major attention for your cause or country at the COP26 meetings. Friday is all about the final haggling, but Thursday still had a few fireworks. In a surprise move, a joint statement from the United States and China subtly undercut the British hosts’ efforts to focus attention on a consensus statement. The announcement from U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, the special envoy from China, talks up cooperation as the path forward. Bear in mind, China’s carbon-dioxide emissions are about 125 percent greater than those of the United States and that in September President Xi announced a plan that anticipates peak emissions this decade. According to the declaration, among the issues that the two giants will tackle collaboratively are methane emissions and deforestation.

The spin is that Kerry got China to the table and that a step forward — no matter how small or procedural — is still a step forward. In reality, China snubbed President Biden’s big Glasgow announcement last week of a Methane Pledge that was signed by more than 100 countries (to reduce global methane emissions by 30 percent from 2020 levels before 2030). Instead of acting multilaterally, China went down the path of a bilateral agreement; either Kerry gave up something for the cooperation or will have to give up something in the future.

British prime minister Boris Johnson and his team are pleading for a consensus from representatives to make national pledges for new, more-aggressive emissions targets before the end of next year instead of by 2025 as was outlined six years ago in Paris. Yesterday’s draft text included new requirements for developing nations to report emissions despite — as is currently the case — getting a pass. It is hard to see how China and India, or most Middle Eastern countries, could agree. The United States and most European Union countries have yet to translate their current pledges into binding legislation and face stiff institutional and political headwinds.

However, for the net-zero advocates hope springs eternal. The Danes, along with Costa Rica, announced a new coalition called the “Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance.” Also joining are France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden, and Wales. California joined as an associate member and in the press is described as a “friend of BOGA,” though it is unclear what that will entail. BOGA members will no longer permit oil and gas production and will set a date to end oil and gas exploration.

Today’s Headlines

Dubai ruler says UAE to host COP28 climate conference in 2023” reads a headline in Reuters. (Next year’s COP27 is scheduled for Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.) As alluded to above and underlying the entire meeting, pledges and promises are not action or outcomes. Climate campaigners have been catastrophists for at least 50 years and at each turn — at least in countries with democratic institutions — the most radical proposals are examined for the trade-offs presented. It is worth remembering, that despite all the hoopla about extinction and the irreversibility of various trends, the United States has been reducing its emissions and suffering fewer deaths due to extreme events in a period during which wealth, education, and health have improved. While the former is not true everywhere, the latter certainly is true globally, and it is something to celebrate.

What You Won’t Read in the Next Day’s Papers

Nothing binding will come from COP26. Pledges, commitments, promises, goals, declarations, and the much-abused “ambitions” of parties to the treaty must be backed by law in their own countries. Neither lawmaking nor the deployment of new technologies that change how we create and use energy takes place at the U.N. COP meetings. Unless the hard, and often politically untenable, work is done after people return home from Glasgow, COP26 will have produced little other than, well, hot air.

Read the full article at National Review.