COP26 may not achieve much - but at least it gives leaders the chance to meet

The Prince of Wales with the President of the United States Joe Biden at COP26

The COP26 summit did give world leaders the opportunity to meet and discuss climate problems - but how much difference will it make in the long term, once the leaders have returned home? - Credit: PA

As anyone who read my column a few weeks will know I don't have particularly high hopes for the COP26 summit that is dominating national news this week.

I have seen very little to suggest that world leaders are prepared to do anything other than make bland statements about how concerned they are about the environment while not being prepared to take necessary action

The sight of the great and the good from around the world flying in to Glasgow airport by private jet to tell everyone how worried they are about global warming would be funny if it wasn't so serious.

The British Prime Minister is running around telling us that the sky is about to fall in while his Chancellor is halving fuel duty on domestic flights when there are perfectly good clean ways of travelling around this country.

We're told that we have to make difficult choices if we want to cut emissions. But don't expect the government to make any difficult decisions on this. If it really wanted to do something about cutting vehicle emissions it shouldn't have frozen fuel duty again.

Of course if they had really wanted to be green they would have used any extra money they raised from a fuel duty rise to improve the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging - but the simple fact is that green credentials are nothing when set against the threat of losing votes from motorists!

At the start of the conference we've had a couple of apparently positive moves - a commitment to stop the destruction of rainforests and another to reduce methane emissions.

I'd be more confident if we hadn't had a similar commitment on protecting forests at earlier COP summits that were forgotten when delegates got home - or if the biggest methane producers (China, Russia and India) hadn't excused themselves from signing that agreement!

Most Read

It's not just politicians who really should reflect on what they do and say about the environment.

The Prince of Wales has many fine points, but flying in a private jet from London to Rome and then Glasgow to tell us all how we're going to hell in a handcart after telling the BBC that he powers his Aston Martin with processed cheese and wine really does open himself to parody.

Maybe he should follow the example of his son and daughter in law who travelled from London to Glasgow on a scheduled electric train and were then driven to their engagements in an electric Land Rover. The Cambridges really showed us how to make a good impression.

If COP26 does bring forward real change that will be great. But with Presidents Xi and Putin staying away and Indian PM Modi admitting his country will continue to emit greenhouse gases until 2070 I really don't feel any great hope of anything meaningful emerging.

And what difference will what is happening in Glasgow make to us here in Suffolk? I'm not sure there will be any great changes.

Yes, it is raising issues of the rise in global temperatures and the devastating effect this could have on humanity. But what can we, as individuals, do to ease this if in the developing world coal-fired power stations are still being built and rainforests are still being exploited for their timber or flattened to allow more grazing to fulfil the demand for hamburgers?

Having said all that, the one positive I am drawing from COP26 is that so many political leaders DID feel it was worthwhile coming to Glasgow for the summit. 

It is putting the environment in the spotlight for a few weeks - and maybe if it makes people think more about the consequences of their actions it may be worthwhile.

However there is clearly something of a backlash among some who either don't believe humans are driving climate change or that it's not worth changing our lifestyles or paying more to stop it.

And until those of us living in democracies are prepared to take really difficult decisions that isn't going to change - and politicians know that when they're looking for our votes!

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter