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The strange allure of COP26, the "World Conference Of the Parties"

Commentary by Alexander Tomský

On Sunday, thousands of delegates from almost every country in the world will descend on hapless Glasgow, one of the UK's ugliest cities, to assure each other that the globe's air is dangerously warming by the release of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, and, as they do every year (for the 26th time), to promise each other what they intend to do about it.

There is little doubt among these politicians, scientists and the elite that since the Industrial Revolution humans have been contributing substantially to dangerous global warming by their lifestyles, and everyone in the world repeatedly promises how they intend to achieve zero emissions by 2050 so that the air temperature will not rise more than 1.5°-2.0°C above pre-industrial levels.

This time, delegates are to present their governments' detailed plan for eliminating the "carbon footprint," as it is now fashionable to call the policy of "decarbonization." Simply put, all countries are to stop burning coal, stop cutting down forests, and instead introduce solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars. Six years ago, at the Paris Summit, the rich countries promised to put together USD 100 billion a year to help the poorest, but so far they have failed to do so. The slogan of the conference is 'coal, cars, cash and trees'. They have 12 days to wrangle, but there will be no binding signatures. You can't make a promise with a promise.

The problem is, it's like nuclear disarmament, you can't do it globally unless everyone signs up. Asia (with Australia) consumes three quarters of the world's coal production, China generates half its electricity from coal and India even three quarters. Of the 1,000 new coal-fired power plants planned, 865 are being built in Asia, most in China, which doubled its pace this year. And coke-intensive cement and steel production there is also soaring. Rising living standards in Asian countries are boosting car and airline ticket sales.

The International Energy Agency estimates that Asia will increase atmospheric greenhouse gases by nine per cent by 2030, more than the rest of the world. That's why China's dictator Xi Jinping won't be attending the conference, nor will India's president, most likely. Both agree, of course, that decarbonisation is necessary, but not at the expense of their economies and living standards.

However, the European Union, the US President and the British Prime Minister intend to severely reduce the prosperity of their citizens. The unanswered question – how long will their voters put up with this?

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London, the taxes just introduced, which raise the tax quota to the level of the disastrous 1970s, will deprive the average taxpayer of £13,000 a year. And it will face post-caucus inflation and unaffordable energy costs that wind and sun can never replace. (No mention of nuclear).

By the end of September the price of electricity had trebled and the price of gas had quintupled, with a further 30 per cent increase expected next year. And although Britain is a world champion, generating 40 per cent of its electricity from renewables, it has blackouts when there is no wind, yet it has drawn up an ambitious plan to subsidise electric cars and heat pumps.

Boris Johnson styles himself as the world's green leader, but without the agreement of Russia, India and, above all, China, the zero emissions conference is an embarrassing farce. In his memoir Promised Land, US President Barack Obama wrote one profoundly true sentence: 'China's economic rise means the end of the agreed rules of international trade. China will nod to everything, but it will avoid or bend and break every rule."

And zero emissions? The Europeans and Americans produce (excluding imports) about 18 percent of global greenhouse gases, yet they believe they can influence the world with their green policies. Global warming is hardly talked about in Asian countries (even democratic ones). So it is no wonder that English jokers have renamed the summit a cop out (dodge) or a cop up (fiasco).

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