Cop26 will be derailed unless the rich world meets its obligation to the poor

(The Guardian, 4 Nov 2021) It’s no use telling developing nations to decarbonise. The west must accept it bears the bulk of the blame for the climate crisis.

Acouple of hundred years ago Britain was not a lot different from many poor countries today. Life expectancy was low, infant mortality was high, living standards barely rose from year to year, water-borne diseases were rife. People worked long hours and life for the struggling was, as Thomas Hobbes put it, “nasty, brutish and short”.

Then the Industrial Revolution came along and Britain, followed by other countries in the world’s temperate zones, discovered the elixir of economic growth. After pretty much flatlining for more than a thousand years, incomes per head started to rise much more quickly.

Growth has resulted in shorter working weeks, longer lives and fewer people living in absolute poverty. More money has been spent on health, education and sanitation – all of it much needed. But – and there was always going to be a but – it has come at a cost. Two centuries of using fossil fuels to power economic activity with no regard for the consequences has led to global heating, which has now reached potentially catastrophic levels.

The good news from the early days of the Cop26 conference in Glasgow is that everybody admits there is a problem. The US president, Joe Biden, gets it, as does the British chancellor, Rishi Sunak. President Xi Jinping of China, although he has given the talks a miss, is as cognisant of the threat as France’s Emmanuel Macron or Germany’s Angela Merkel. The big beasts of global finance know they have to pledge obeisance to carbon net zero targets even while continuing to bankroll the fossil fuel sector.

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The Guardian, 4 Nov 2021: Cop26 will be derailed unless the rich world meets its obligation to the poor