Nero fiddles, while Rome burns…

So, it’s over. COP 26 – possibly the largest gathering of world leaders, advisors, scientists, lobbyists and general hangers on the world has ever seen. Indicative of what was to come, some of the first reporting was of Joe Biden’s obscene motorcade; surely one of the most blatant examples of piss-taking on the world stage we’ve been unfortunate enough to have seen. Or is the president really that stupid?

Faced with the job of agreeing the drastic changes needed to mitigate the worst effects of anthropomorphic climate catastrophe, our leaders and representatives chose to commit to a few, gradual changes. Possibly. And not yet. Let’s leave it for a few years, shall we?

The guests of honour at the extravagant party were around 500 fossil fuel lobbyists, metaphorically swirling around like seagulls following a trawler, while those whose voices really needed to be heard were largely left out in the cold.

A new buzzword was ubiquitous at COP – ‘transitioning’:
‘How can your country claim to be tackling the climate crisis when you’re building new coal-fired power stations?’
It’s okay, because we’re ‘transitioning”

Reduction of fossil fuel use was discussed, and some moderate targets agreed on, although none of them are compulsory. Most sinister was the farming lobby – so influential, so powerful, so successful that the impact of their sector, such a destroyer of environment, such a massive contributor to climate change, wasn’t dealt with at all.

This was a conference where the president of the United States of America reportedly trumped (pun intended) loudly in front of a royal personage; the irony of the president’s personal methane emissions mirroring those of his country was difficult to ignore.

News channels pointed to the hypocrisy of the limo engines idling, while the chauffeurs waited for their dignitaries. Easy to sneer, but it’s not just the rich. Walk across a motorway services car park and you’ll see no end of cars with their engines running, pumping out toxic fumes, while the people inside drink and eat from single-use plastic containers. I mean, really – what chance do we stand?

Every year, in the UK, water companies pump vast amounts of raw sewage into rivers and the sea. Last week, while news coverage concentrated on COP 26, our government was busy voting down an amendment to the environment bill which would have held water companies accountable to reduce the amount of sewage they pump out to sea. As the host of COP26 you would expect the UK government to have set a good example. Instead, they are happily signing up to yet more fossil fuel projects.

There were things to admire. Greta Thunberg was, as ever, an inspiration. So diminutive, so young, and yet such a clarity of mind. Humbling. And she wasn’t alone.

Photo by Aslıhan Altın on Unsplash

But the people inside weren’t listening. One of the commentators said that climate change denial had all but disappeared… to be replaced by greenwash! There was, as far as I heard, no mention of population. There’s a simple formula:

Total emissions = Average emissions per person x the number of people

If we’re serious about getting emissions down to a safe level, we need to work on both sides of the equation. I live in a country (England) which is so over-populated we no longer have any wilderness left, and our forest cover is tiny. Oh, and by the way, pets – particularly dogs – contribute to global warming too, not least by consuming food, which means more of that damaging intensive agriculture. In the UK we’re in the midst of massive increase in dog ownership, which is incompatible with tackling the climate crisis.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there was just one more thing my country did to embarrass itself last week, right in the middle of the climate crisis conference. Across the country we lit huge bonfires, and set light to vast amounts of explosives in the form of fireworks. Just for the fun of it, of course. Climate crisis? What climate crisis…

About literarylad

Graham Wright is a freelance writer and author. His first novel, Single Point Perspective, is set in and around the city of Manchester, where he lived and worked for more than fifteen years. His second, Moojara, is set in and around the world, but mostly centres on Perth, Western Australia. Both are works of dramatic literary fiction - imaginative, serious and thoughtful, but with a sense of humour. Graham is currently living in north Shropshire, where he is busy working on novel number three.
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