It is very unusual for the British Queen to speak publicly about societal issues. But when she visited Cardiff yesterday for the opening of the Welsh Parliament, her comment was recorded live.
“I hear a lot about COP26, we don’t yet know who’s coming (by heads of state and government, Reds note), no idea, we just know who’s not coming… which is really annoying when they’re just talking but not acting.”
The Royal Commitment to Climate
Her critique is an echo of climate activist Greta Thunberg’s recent speech in Milan, where she made all the big promises in politics with the phrase “green transition blah blah blah.” On the same morning, Prince William criticized the trend of space tourism and said that it would be better to save our planet first. In addition, Prince Charles has been praised for his success in changing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and for attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
The royal family’s apparent commitment to the climate issue is getting a lot of attention here in the British media, at the same time as criticism against Prime Minister Boris Johnson is growing. He did not prioritize spending time on the diplomatic work necessary for global negotiations as large and complex as COP26.
Bad signs from China
It’s the most important climate summit since Paris in 2015, and now world leaders will deliver on their countries’ toughest emissions promises. Instead, Boris Johnson sent Alok Sharma, a politician with only one year of government experience appointed by Boris Johnson to lead the COP negotiations. Sharma has made nine trips abroad to prepare for the negotiations, but their outcome is unclear. He suffered a humiliating defeat in Brazil when President Jair Bolsonaro refused to accept him. Sharma was a very petty figure in Bolsonaro’s eyes. He wanted to meet Boris Johnson.
Neither China nor India has made any tougher climate promises to Glasgow. The Times reported today that President Xi Jinping intends to stay at his home in Beijing and not attend the meeting immediately, which is a major setback for negotiations and Boris Johnson personally.
Although he has not traveled abroad since the pandemic, many hope this will be important enough for the Chinese president to come in person. China’s decision not to hold a meeting immediately may be an ominous sign that it does not intend to make any new promises.
There were hopes that China would pledge to break the emissions curve as early as 2025 rather than 2030. But with the country’s energy shortages and recent decisions to ramp up coal mining to keep the country’s industries running this winter, such a promise seems less likely.
John Kerry, the US climate envoy and world leader among climate diplomats, also appears increasingly pessimistic. For nine months, he traveled tirelessly between China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and other major countries to resolve major disputes over, among other things, climate finance. In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, he admitted that the major climate summit will likely end without agreement on an agreement that would secure a world that does not warm above 1.5 degrees.
Kerry’s assessment is that many countries simply cannot handle the energy transition in time. He praised the European Union, the United States and Japan for their stricter climate targets, but said that “after Glasgow, it will be clear which countries will take responsibility and which will not.”
It’s not just Queen Elizabeth who is upset.
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