COP26 An expensive procrastination?

Boris Johnson has sacked president Claire O’Neill, the person charged with setting set up COP26. She claims he doesn’t ‘get it’. As the former minister of energy and clean growth, she should know the views of the prime minister she served. With COP26 due in November 2020 and all sorts of impossible ‘targets’ being talked up but not actioned by government sources, is there any chance that anything other than further procrastination and obstruction will come out of the conference?

Mrs Claire O’Neill is quoted by the BBC as recommending the following;

  • Setting net zero emissions as the target for all climate ambition from countries, businesses, states and cities
  • Introducing a “properly-funded” global package for adapting to inevitable changes in the climate
  • Placing nature-based solutions (such as forest conservation) at the heart of the agenda
  • New net zero sector deals from hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as cement and chemicals

While these look ambitious, when you analyse them they are far too open to being fudged and fiddled by ‘state actors’. To become reality on a global scale, businesses will need their economic well-being to be driven by being carbon negative – beyond carbon neutral, they will need to be carbon negative using carbon capture.
What does a properly funded global package look like?
We know some low lying islands are already in danger of inundation from rising sea levels and sand banks being dredged for building materials. But the UK is unlikely to fund the protection of a few Pacific and Indian Ocean islands when the government has to build a new massive Thames Barrier to protect London*. I can see that pattern being repeated across the globe as many capitol cities are on low lying coastal plains. The call to use nature based solutions could be a good one except that in the UK, as elsewhere, we suffer statistical cheating about forest planting going on. An example is the M62 corridor, designated by government as The Northern Forest with grants to plant trees – only the funds are “match funding”. Boris can spout all he likes about planting trees and how much money is being put up for doing it because he knows full well expecting locals to stump up half of the £500m is unrealistic and he can dodge the blame.
The last bullet point is simply wrong. If you substitute carbon (biochar) for sand, you can make lighter, stronger cement or concrete that locks carbon into building materials and reduces the consumption of sand. Adding biochar to tarmac raises the temperature that the tarmac is stable at. For hot countries this is a big win as the roads are less likely to melt in the summer.

Do we really need to spend between £250m and £450m on COP26 when we expect nothing positive will come out of it? What if Glasgow planted £450m worth of trees around the city and into the Highlands instead? That might just offset the carbon-dioxide and hot air generated at COP25.

*Regardless of rising sea levels, the east of England is sinking by one centimetre a year. In November 2012 the Thames Barrier came within twenty centimetres of being topped by a storm surge.

In breaking news today 30th March 2020; the conference centre in Glasgow is likely to become a temporary hospital for Coronavirus 19 patients making the likelihood of COP26 being held in the autumn unlikely.