Shaken not stirred – like a lacklustre film release, will COP26 go straight to DVD?

Energy & Climate Change

Even before the gates of Glasgow's Scottish Event Campus (SEC) were thrown open over the weekend, there was a distinctly cautionary tone about the forthcoming proceedings at COP26.

'Will it, won't it' pessimism abounded from all corners, with everyone from world leaders to NGOs telling climate action hopefuls that though they want this to be THE summit that really makes climate history and finally gets the wheels of the Paris Agreement goals, and more, in motion, they're not holding out a whole lot of hope.

The prime minister's address at the COP26 World Leaders Summit Opening Ceremony did little to lift this desolute mood. "If summits alone solved climate change then we would not have needed 25 previous COP summits to get to where we are today," he said before making a gloomy predicition about the fate that will still await us after two weeks of COP.

"Smokestacks will still belch in industrial heartlands," he continued, "cows will still belch in their pastures – even if some brilliant Kiwi scientists are teaching them to be more polite," and "cars powered by petrol and diesel will still choke congested roads in the world’s great cities".

If you're not already feeling dismayed, then Boris Johnson's continual references to our need to channel our inner James Bond, with whom "we are in roughly the same position", may just do it.

The "duty" to don our preferred suit of armour, tuxedo for Bond and more than likely waders or a high vis jacket for the average in-the-field water and environmental professional, to "defuse that bomb" i.e. stop climate change in its tracks should, says Johnson, be something that we do with relish even without Miss Money Penny and a swanky, and invariably crucial, suite of transforming gadgets at our disposal.

But would Bond really have reached his final scene intact and emerged victorious time and time again, if his mission had been to halt climate change in its tracks against a backdrop of a rapidly industrialising world, regulation loopholes, private vs public climate finance tussles, and three out of four BRIC countries not even taking a seat at the table plus a whole lot besides? The answer, is probably not.

Yes there is a lot going for the climate conversation, but how much is there really going for climate action? Who will act as our proverbial Daniel Craig during COP26 and pull off some daring moves to get things over the line? Johnson – who loves this kind of international grandstand – and his sidekick, COP President Alok Sharma, must use all their charm and charisma to convince leaders to go above and beyond.

Your inbox is probably already full of post-COP26 digest webinar invitations from the realists who understand that conferences such as COP merely light the fuse, while the sparks only really fly once stages are dismantled and host cities turn quiet once again.

But, and there's always a but, there's always, always an opportunity for the above to be proved wrong. For the predicted cinematic flop to become a cult classic, for people who aren't Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg to make that one unassuming statement on the climate that becomes a standout media headline and for policy to be pinned down rather than rise like a helium balloon off into the disappearing distance.

And this is what we'll have to hold on to.

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