According to John Kerry, who flew a million kilometers in three years to save the world from the effects of your use of motor vehicles, we have nine years to save the planet and also nine months. Because the next gabfest, COP26, scheduled for Nov. 1-12 in Glasgow, Scotland (temperature at time of writing a blazing 9°), is “this most critical moment where we have the capacity to define the decade of the 20s which will make or break us to get to net zero carbon in 2050.” A trumpet shall sound… muddy. And if Glasgow is just more yakking, can we finally stop? Or is it Climate Groundhog Day where the same alarm goes off again and again?
Kerry’s penchant for travel prompted Eric Worrall to suggest “Perhaps someone should introduce Kerry to the concept of teleconferencing, before he personally wrecks the planet with his diplomatic excesses.” And indeed one might well ask why Glasgow is not a teleconference.
In his bluster mode, Kerry said when the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement after a world-threatening 107-day absence, “For the last four years there were a lot of times when a lot of us thought the failure of this enterprise may rest on one word: Trump. But the international climate regime is still standing.” But he also said, with clarity, that the parties in Glasgow need to “define in real terms their roadmap for the next 10 years, the next 30 years. We are talking about a reality we haven’t been able to assemble in these meetings so far.” And he’s right there.
In “real terms”. A “roadmap”. A “reality”. One “we haven’t been able to assemble in these meetings so far.” Which of course means that the “international climate regime” that is “still standing” is doing it with both feet firmly planted in the air. But it also means that if they are serious about what they claim to believe, they must stop posturing and dancing on tables and droning virtuously onward and upward and do stuff.
So we ask: Why must they all be in a hall to do it? These roadmaps and action plans, when they aren’t just propaganda leaflets, are very detailed documents with binding consequences. They are not drafted because John Kerry can lean close to someone in a corridor and say “Down with Trump” or whatever they say in these crucial informal face-to-face settings where, Kerry explained in 2019, “I have to fly to meet with people and get things done”. Indeed they are not drafted by John Kerry, Xie Zhenhua, Boris Johnson and that crowd at all. They are drafted by armies of bureaucratic specialists. And the time people like Kerry spend eating lobster and posing for photos is time not spent overseeing this work.
Again to give credit where due, in appropriate limited quantities, Kerry also pointed the finger-bone of blame at China as well as India and the EU for not doing enough to make their vague words a concrete reality. Before pompously wrapping himself in Lincoln’s mantle, or Bill Murray’s scarf, and calling COP26 in Glasgow the “last, best hope we have” to avoid runaway warming.
No it isn’t. Because if 2021 is our rendez-vous with destiny, the “critical moment where we have the capacity to define the decade of the 20s which will make or break us to get to net zero carbon in 2050”, the last thing they need to do is wait until November to go bloviate amid the heather. Instead the last, best hope we have now is for them to send each other emails at once saying “Three months from now we’ll FTP a thousand-page detailed PDF to you saying what we’re going to do, not just vague aspirations but hard targets and specific mechanisms for reaching them carrying legal penalties for non-compliance, and you can send us yours. And after we’ve read them, we’ll know if you capacitized the definition of a decade or not. Plus we’ll be watching you.”
Should it prove impossible to create such a document, or if the Chinese one is a bad joke, or if nobody does what they say, and the last best critical turning point of decision passes, can we just relax and crack a Foster’s and enjoy the warm weather? Or will it all start over again?
P.S. This just in: Do not relax and light a joint because cannabis cultivation evidently has a huge carbon footprint. So no more “green days”. It’s not easy being progressive.