N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Is there anyone surprised that COP26 failed to solve the climate problem? No coherent strategy for addressing a major, technically complex and politically sensitive issue has ever emerged or will be ever emerge from a gathering of 30.000 people representing more than 190 countries (present with national, regional and local authorities) and uncounted industry and nongovernmental groups.
Like much of what happens in international life, COP26 was less about solving difficult problems than helping politicians survive their inability to provide effective leadership on issues that matter. European and North American politicians basked in the coverage of their pledges and their declarations of concern; Asian and African leaders made sure the people back home know how hard they are fighting for that trillion-dollar pay-out. In the meantime emissions continue to rise.
As one politician after another committed their countries to carefully crafted unenforceable pledges, none of them had the courage to mention that no country anywhere fully honoured the climate pledges made with fanfare in Paris six years ago. Even, the pledges are insufficient to meet the stated goals of the U.N. climate process, and nobody is keeping the pledges.
US President Joe Biden won the prize for the most cynical politician. In Glasgow he boasted about US’ new climate goals and its dedication to them. In the same week he begged OPEC+ to bail out the world economy and his presidency by pumping more fossil fuels. We know, he wants to be re-elected in 2024, no matter how much greenhouse gas spews into the sky.
But climate change joins a growing list of vital problems that neither national governments nor international institutions (including the EU) seem competent to solve. The Covid pandemic, mass migration producing a humanitarian crisis on EU and US borders, Jihadi violence raging in more places today than 20 years ago, cyberwar threatening to make arms control obsolete, Iran roams unchecked across the Middle East, and let us not forget to mention China’s growing aggressivity.
Maybe our problem is not only that the climate is changing, but also that the world is becoming unmanageable.