Greta Thunberg actually hit the nail on the head for once. She described the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow with remarkable accuracy.
“The #COP26 is over. Here’s a brief summary: Blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg tweeted.
On Nov. 13, about 200 countries agreed to a deal that is supposed to cut down on emissions worldwide.
The pact outlined that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Countries represented at the conference agreed that emissions needed to be reduced quickly and that they would report annually.
However, though an agreement was reached and signed, no one is being fooled into thinking this is actually going to be all that effective.
“COP26 has closed the gap, but it has not solved the problem,” Niklas Hoehne, a climate researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said, according to Nature.com.
Climate change talks always target fossil fuels, of course. This conference particularly seemed to be on the warpath against coal. But thanks to India and China, coal is still going to be burning.
In a last-minute change, India and China insisted that the agreement be re-worded from “phase out” of coal to “phase down” of coal, CNBC News reported.
This caused an outcry from other countries, since China and India are two of the world’s greatest coal burners.
“China and India are going to have to explain themselves to the most climate vulnerable countries in the world,” said Alok Sharma, a U.K. lawmaker who led the COP26 negotiations, according to The Guardian.
The whole conference is largely recognized as a failure and a weak agreement, rather than a great victory. The Guardian ran a headline saying, “It could have been worse, but our leaders failed us at COP26. That’s the truth of it.”
At the foundation, any agreement like this that is not legally binding is not going to be terribly effective. Add to that the fact that China and India, two of the world’s greatest carbon polluters, are going to do what they want anyway, and you begin to question what the conference accomplished at all.
As far as climate change, the conference really only accomplished “blah, blah, blah.” But it highlighted some important geopolitical stances, particularly China’s and America’s.
Though there have been warnings that climate change will end our planet and doomsday is approaching if we don’t lower carbon emissions, some countries like China have decided that they are powerful enough to just ignore it. In fact, China’s President Xi Jinping didn’t even show up to the conference.
This just goes to show that so much of the activity regarding climate change is just political posturing. And the most powerful players are making their stances known. Jinping not showing up to COP26, along with China’s representative pressuring for the change of wording in the pact, are clear signals that China sees itself as powerful enough to just do whatever it wants.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Biden is trying to take extreme climate change action. It’s more political posturing — just on the other side of the spectrum as China. While Jinping is flexing his muscles, Biden is trying to play nice and appease all the other kids on the playground.
Particularly leading up to the COP26 conference, Biden wanted to show the world that he was taking climate change very seriously, so that he wouldn’t be too heavily criticized.
“The whole world is watching. If these bills don’t come to pass, then the U.S. will be coming to Glasgow with some fine words … not much else. It won’t be enough,” Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a climate adviser for the United Nations Secretary General, told the New York Times in October.
Climate change is a significant political vehicle. Biden’s administration is trying to play nice with China on this issue, in hopes of bettering the relationship.
John Kerry, the U.S.’s climate change envoy, and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, made a good show of agreeing that the countries will work together on cutting emissions.
“Both sides will work jointly and with other parties to ensure a successful COP26 and to facilitate an outcome that is both ambitious and balanced,” Xie said.
This greased the wheels ahead of Jinping and Biden’s upcoming virtual meeting. Biden seems to be desperately trying to keep China calm and happy with the U.S. COP26 was just one more way to try to smooth things over with China.
So, while the COP26 conference and pact may be considered an environmental failure, there was plenty going on under the surface. China and the U.S. did not waste this opportunity to show the world where they stand in relation to each other and everyone else. China made sure to come out as the strong man calling the shots, while Biden kept the U.S. looking tentative and unsure of itself.
Even if the planet is in imminent danger, climate change meetings are just a political outlet at this point for the power players. This conference was just a ploy.
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