Climate Change

COP26: A comfy, convenient throne for the capitalist elite

At the COP26 conference commencing this Sunday, world leaders will once again meet to discuss what they will describe as “transformative” and “innovative” climate policies designed to put “people and planet first”. Sadly, the all-too-common political mistrust we now see across most leading democracies means the majority of us are likely to dismiss this event as yet another political vanity fair. One in which world elites will seek only to tick a few boxes, pen their name to a couple of “aspirational” agreements, and orate a pundit-grabbing speech or two.

Advisors will be probing their bosses to offer modest smiles and sharp waves in a bid to reassure the rest of us “all will be well”. And it is with great frustration I must wholeheartedly agree with this pessimistic analysis. I do so through the simple philosophical recognition that at the very centre of our current environmental efforts, lies not a principled aspiration to save our natural world, but instead, a self-centred and, I would go so far as to say, ultimately evil attempt to merely prolong the survival of the very man-made concept which is responsible for its destruction. Globalised free-market capitalism.

Let’s just pause and remind ourselves of the very foundations this relatively new ideology is built upon – continuous resource expansion over environmental preservation, competitive productivity over equal economic reward, and private profit in the interest of the shareholder, over fair and equal resource distribution in the interest of all.

There can be no private profiteering over our environment – the two are incompatible. But the almighty top-down structure of capitalism simply cannot survive without maintaining these core principles. Plain and simple. So why then, do we continually fool ourselves into believing it is our saving grace from the climate crisis? Because in simply discussing future financial investment into renewable energy and electric cars and eating a bit less meat, our world leaders are simply sticking comfy green plasters onto an economic system that keeps them and their monied backers afloat. This fundamental hypocrisy and lack of integrity can be witnessed in our government’s latest post-Brexit trade deal with Australia, in which it has agreed to import highly environmentally unfriendly lamb onto our supermarket shelves from the other side of the globe.

The “innovative ideas” and unrealistic “agreements” that come out of these conferences are no more than vain PR stunts designed to manipulate a toxic consumer-based desire for “new alternatives”. Boris Johnson continually stresses how the UK is now the greenest economy in Europe. And indeed, via the way in which capitalist societies measure this, he is right. But I ask simply, what is the point in having a league table of the greenest capitalist economies in the world when its very form of measurement is completely incompatible with the scales it is to be weighed upon? Even when standing by these measurements, only 7 out of the 32 states who signed up to the supposedly “historic” Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, have met their “legally binding” targets, and the UK, nor any other G7 member, is not one of them.

The swish, colourful affair we will undoubtedly see on our screens next week, will provide merely another comfy and convenient throne from which the capitalist elite will seek only to prolong their economic and political dominance. A throne from which, as Greta Thunberg so accurately put it earlier this month, we will hear yet more “Blah, blah, blah” in the form of “meaningless and empty words”.


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Jamie Bryson

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January 2022
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