Bagpipes & Bond...
kicked off COP proceedings yesterday as world leaders sheltered in a flooded Glasgow for an afternoon of opening remarks on the progress made since 2015's Paris conference.
General disillusionment with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5◦C target for temperature increases, which was hashed out at COP 21, already threatened to overshadow premiers’ statements. Until French President Emmanuel Macron broke the spell at 4 o’clock, the afternoon had been dominated by speeches strikingly out of sync with public commentary on current warming forecasts, which predict temperatures rising by as much as 2.7◦C by 2050. "The key of our shared action," he reminded, "[is that] we have enough commitments to be back on track for that 1.5-degree target".
It was still a strong opening for the government, which had struggled to generate positive press in the run-up to COP and its own climate commitments following accusations of conference mismanagement and greenwashing. Things initially didn't improve when the Treasury’s remarks on intergenerational fairness last week were butchered by Poet Yrsa Daley-Ward’s spectacularly blunt reminder that delegates were “yesterday’s beneficiaries, inheritors of land, air, [and] time”.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in his element. His impassioned pleas resonated well with his audience, and, other than a resurrected rallying cry from two months prior on how the UK is now the Saudi Arabia of wind, the PM made surprisingly little of the UK’s climate progress. His gusto nevertheless left his speech well-placed to seize the mantle of climate leadership, it was a good opener for the presidency.
The Prince of Wales wasted no time fulfilling Sunday’s promise to rally the private sector, quite literally, for war. His was a shift away from Johnson’s internationalism to private sector saviourship, an awkward follow-up to a speech that palpably chafed against the claim the private sector offered “the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.”
In a room full of government delegates, it seemed an odd thing for the prince to say. Hopefully, negotiations this week will provide markets with more substantive direction and leverage to play a more instrumental role in the green transition. An agreed upon, enforceable multilateral ESG regulatory framework would be an excellent start.
After what was the world’s worst pronunciation of the host city (glass-cow), President Joe Biden’s campaign for bipartisan climate action at home ended up leaking all over the global stage. It was painfully clear that COP26 was not his primary audience given the polarisation in Washington. It’s about “good plain jobs…it’s about workers” – it’s about near-impossible to distinguish this president in an autumnal Glasgow from his first joint address to Congress in the spring. His speech felt tired and fragile; America “hopefully leading by the power of our example” was anything but convincing. He will be under more pressure to inject some dynamism into the American presence at COP this week.
Meanwhile, as representatives took turns to speak, President Xi Jinping’s unsurprising absence was an uncomfortably emissive elephant as UN Secretary General António Guterres decried the role of G20 countries accounting for 80% of global emissions without the worst offender in the room. The Chinese premier also decided that a letter to the conference was sufficient engagement from the leader of a country that emits more emissions every year than the next eight largest emitters combined.
The next few days will hopefully shine more detail on what we can expect from the talks, but by comparison, the UK has come out of Day 1 looking better than expected. Boris Johnson defied expectations yesterday. Thank goodness his return south on a private jet ran on a “special mix” of aviation fuel. Otherwise he would have looked very silly.
Shock of the Day
Prime Minister Narenda Modi announced that India will reach net zero emissions by 2070
(Source: BBC News)
Stat of the Day
Saudi Arabia emits more than three times as many carbon emissions per capita than the United Kingdom (Source: Global Carbon Project)