COP26 has been a demonstration of division not unity

Steven Young

November 8, 2021

Two months ago, I wrote for The Peak about how much hypocrisy was on display from the people lecturing us all on climate change. Examples included Greta Thunberg and her not-so-eco-friendly boat ride, Alok Sharma and Allegra Stratton with their diesel cars, and of course Harry and Meghan and their private jet journeys for the environment.

Since I wrote that article, many more examples of climate hypocrisy have jumped into the headlines. Between Extinction Rebellion founders with diesel cars and energy inefficient houses and Insulate Britain members without proper insulation in their own homes, hypocrisy abounds from the so-called environmentalists. All leading to this spectacle of elitist hypocrisy in Glasgow – COP26. 

For the past year and a half, much of the world has been forced to work from home. Team meetings have happened over Zoom and Microsoft Teams. But now, when the team meeting is a conference on reducing carbon emissions, the world’s elites all flock to Glasgow on planes. The Mail reported that over 400 private planes have flown to and from Glasgow, carrying world leaders, delegations, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Instead of having a Zoom conference, or just cancelling the lavish knees-up in favour of ad-hoc online meetings, the world’s elites have flocked to Scotland to lecture the working classes and the world’s poor on cutting their emissions. The reduction in emissions caused by the world locking down is no match for world leaders and celebrities with an excuse to have a party. 

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, committed to reach Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2070. Given that India is the third largest carbon emitting country, behind China and the US, this should be a cause for celebration. There is, however, a sense of disappointment in reaction to this, suggesting that it does not go far enough. The entitled elites who have benefitted from the burning of fossil fuels are disappointed that India and other developing nations wish to do the same.  

The problem with COP26 is not that the rich and powerful flew to Glasgow in private jets, nor is it the menu that is made up of Scottish meat rather than leaves and cockroaches. The problem is that these people are happy to continue taking these flights and eating this food while telling those who are less well-off to turn their heating down, walk to work and limit their travel. Telling nations that they should stop using coal and gas is bad enough when the alternative is unreliable renewables. It is much worse when the alternative is wood and dung. 

Greta Thunberg gave a speech to protesters in Glasgow on Friday. In it, she demanded climate justice for the poorer nations who are bearing the brunt of the climate change that has been caused by richer nations burning fossil fuels. This desire for justice, however, does not stretch to protecting poorer nations from the brunt of the radical anti-capitalist policies that Greta is pushing.   

Both the world leaders inside the conference and the protesters outside it have demonstrated a disregard for the concerns of the average person. Climate change is indeed a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but so is getting to work, heating our homes, and feeding our families. Denying these trade-offs does not advance the environmental agenda, as Insulate Britain’s poll numbers demonstrate.  

Contrary to what Greta might say, the solution to the climate crisis is not the reversal of the Industrial Revolution and the inevitable immiseration of the species. The solution lies in innovation, which is encouraged by a market-based approach and not over-bearing government intervention. Groups like the British Conservation Alliance have gone to COP26 to advance this solution. 

Market environmentalism comes with the added benefit of avoiding climate hypocrisy. Market environmentalists do not expect people to give up basic needs to save the planet. Rather, we believe the free market will give us the technology we need to go on living fairly normally while reducing our carbon emissions. We are not telling people that they should not drive, so we can drive without being hypocrites.

COP26 is supposed to be a demonstration of global unity in combating climate change, but the thing it has demonstrated most is division. The division is between the rich and powerful people at the conference, and the rest of us – the people who will be affected by the decisions made at that conference. If we are all in this together, COP27 will not be held in Egypt, but over the internet.  


Written by Steven Young

Steven Young is a freelance writer.

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