Is COP26 just an exercise in hot air?

Most doubt the climate conference will result in meaningful action

Activists and protesters want action, immediate action. They demand change, instant change: the putting right of wrongs perceived. Politicians do not in the main work in the same way. Presidents, prime ministers and ministers take advice from their senior advisers, who in turn are briefed by specialist advisers who study reports and listen to experts in the field before considering and sending the gleaned information back up the chain. Those politicians at the very top then discuss and debate the received information before finally coming to a decision which is not only biased towards the politics of the party in power but also in their opinion acceptable to the electorate and affordable for the nation. All this takes time and therefore unacceptable time in the minds of those activists and protesters. COP26, as the number suggests, means that there have been 25 previous summits on climate change since the first in Berlin in 1995. Each summit has heard the disturbing information presented by scientists and experts and has subsequently made decisions and promises for the future, some of which have eventually come to fruition. But despite every decision and pledge, the planet has very clearly and increasingly quickly continued on its climatic spiral towards destruction. This year alone the globally turbulent weather changes, in unforeseen and frequently unexpected locations, have seen catastrophic floods, fire, drought and famine at the cost of thousands of lives. We have even seen horrifying images of the sea on fire.

And so the climate change activists and protesters continue to take their actions and make their demands – speechmaking, banner waving, marching, shouting, and in the UK recently, adopting a new tactic of blocking and then gluing themselves to motorway slip roads. They have brought traffic to a standstill, enraged motorists and an infuriated Home Secretary, Priti Patel, almost to the point of self-combustion, threatening £10,000 fines and hefty prison sentences. But what else can the protesters do? They want to see nature and the environment fighting back, breathing again and restoring. They’ve heard enough rhetoric as world leaders dither and disagree before making airy commitments for ten or twenty or 30 years distant. It’s a cliché of course, but they want to help make the world a better and sustainable place, not for themselves but for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They want, quite literally, to save the planet.

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