In a few days, heads of state and governments will gather for the United Nations climate change conference (COP 27) in Sharm el-Sheikh. Leaders from all over the world will be flying into Egypt, a country with one of the world’s worst human rights records, on private jets to debate how dreadful the rest of us are at reducing our carbon footprint from a very tenuous position of moral authority. Of the roughly 100 expected to attend the luxury resort on the Red Sea, neither China’s Xi Jinping nor India’s Narendra Modi are likely to attend. It looks like Rishi Sunak seemed to be equivocating when asked about his appearance at the summit. As it currently stands, he is going

King Charles was advised not to attend and to keep a low profile, which we all know won’t happen. Our septuagenarian monarch has long been a staunch advocate for action on climate change. During his tenure as the Prince of Wales, he lobbied the government on all manner of climate-related issues. The “black spider memos”, so called because of his illegible handwriting, revealed the extent of Charles’s political meddling. Between 2004 and 2005, some 27 letters were sent to government ministers in which the future king made a series of explicit policy demands, such as action on the illegal fishing of the Patagonian tooth-fish. He even contacted Tony Blair, suggesting he implement a badger cull under the erroneous assumption the animals are directly responsible for the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.

On paper, both have all the necessary qualifications: a pile of money and a pocketful of dreams. They should avoid this hypocritical love-in. The event is sponsored by Coca-Cola, consistently ranked as the world’s worst plastic polluter. This plastic is produced primarily from fossil fuels, the very thing these people are purportedly there to care about. The multinational corporation produces 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year, most of which ends up in our oceans,

While on the subject of the sea, if we want to do something tangible and visible, we should start with our oceans. They cover 70 percent of the planet’s surface, and its inhabitants provide a rich source of food. Much like atrocious battery farming, intensive methods of fishing are destroying the environment. Dredging and bottom-dragging are both unsustainable due to the destruction of the sea bed. In order to fish for scallops, heavy metal spikes pierce about 10cm into the ocean floor. Highlighting and eliminating this practice is a sensible first step.

Yet there’s more hypocrisy. The ideology of environmentalism runs counter to its vision of an environmental nirvana. Global elites flying in on private jets to discuss ways to cut carbon emissions, these summits are an exercise in abject hypocrisy. Radical chic for the Waitrose warriors. Last year’s Cop26 summit held in Glasgow was estimated to have contributed 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, double the amount of COP25 in Madrid. 

The ideology of climate change is a convenient way to signal adherence to the luxury belief/high-status class, reinforcing a clear separation from the working class. The recent month-long temper tantrums by Animal Rebellion and Just Stop Oil have brought latent hostility out into the open. In 2019, the Google Climate Change Conference was held in Sicily. Over one hundred private jets and 2,000 diesel powered super yachts escorted A-listers and super rich islanders on Maseratis. It’s no wonder some on the left have labelled this “bourgeois environmentalism.” 

According to H.L. Mencken, one of the main goals of politics is to keep the population in a state of perpetual fear, so its leaders can act as saviours. But this is not just fear. Millions face the very real possibility of financial ruin. The cost, let alone the practicality, of achieving net zero by 2050 runs into the trillions. All this when the U.K. is responsible for just one percent of all global carbon emissions? Impoverishment is not an incentive.

A future green society is one most of us want. But we cannot simply make a commitment to renewable energy without resuscitating the public finances. News that BASF, the German chemical company, is relocating to China due to high energy costs making it uncompetitive shows the dangers of exporting its industry to meet this unrealistic net zero goal. Outsourcing carbon emissions means a loss of tax revenue. 

That loss of revenue is more important than ever. We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, inflation is in double digits, food banks are running out of donations and with interest rates having risen to the highest in decades, families are struggling to pay their mortgages. So you will forgive me if I prefer Rishi Sunak to stay here. After all, a vast majority of the summit can be hosted on Zoom. 

The first Cop summit was held in Berlin in 1995. We’ve now had 26 of these. It might have started with the best of intentions, but it has degenerated into nothing more than a publicly subsidised ego trip. Besides spawning a plethora of obnoxious middle-class environmental activist groups, what exactly have any of these global gatherings achieved? Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. 

If we want to make meaningful change and contribute something genuinely transformative, may I suggest we pull the plug on the whole sorry affair. 

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