Sorry Boris, but without China the COP is a flop
- The British leader can enjoy a feeling of self-importance for hosting COP26 in Glasgow but at the end of the day, if the world’s biggest polluter won’t play ball, it’s all for nothing
- Perhaps carbon has become a sideshow at the climate conference, which is used as a forum to air grievances
IS THAT CHEESE?
Several years ago he invested in a conversion of his 51-year-old DB6 to run on a blend of 85 per cent bioethanol and 15 per cent unleaded, also known as E85, which in his case is indeed largely made from surplus British wine and a by-product of cheesemaking. Introduced in 2007, E85 is not new, but take-up was slow. As has been the conversion of vehicles to run on biofuels, with many not suitable for conversion at all.
Charles has been a passionate tree-hugger for as long as I can remember. Years before the public at large became aware of the problems our pollution created, he was concerned about the build-up of plastics and was an early adopter of solar power. He also revealed in the interview that he has given up fish and meat two days a week now, and forgoes dairy on one day so as to reduce his personal carbon footprint. All credit to Charles, but his solutions are niche, and although the heir to the throne of one of the world’s most prominent royal families is very passionate about the green cause, he is considered an eccentric gentleman without clout, having lost support over the years with the very public scandals in which he became entwined.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
The UK is the perfect host for the climate conference, as it has made some very solid strides forward in decarbonisation, particularly through offshore wind power, which on a good day provides 30 per cent of the nation’s needs. This business is accommodated by Charles’ mum, for a fee, as the seabed to 12 miles offshore is a family heirloom owned by the Crown Estate. Offshore wind power is the perfect showcase for the event, with one turn of a modern UK turbine blade generating enough juice to power a house for two days.
I suspect COP26 has now become the site of a global stand-off, with Mother Earth being held as hostage. If that is the case, and in the wake of the numerous and very disturbing UN climate reports published this past year, I for one am extremely concerned.
So perhaps the show that Johnson has touted as the “turning point for humanity” is about to misfire badly, failing to gather the top leaders of all the world’s super-polluters at one round table. As a refresher: China produces 29 per cent of global carbon emissions, the US 14 per cent, India 7 per cent, Russia 4.6 per cent and Japan 3.5 per cent. Of course, China’s pollution largely comes from making products the rest of the world uses, so emissions figures by country basis are enormously skewed. In any case, it seems Mother Earth will have to tolerate our polluting habits a while longer, even as she lashes us with increasingly violent weather according to the United Nations.
The UK’s royal family will be visiting Glasgow in force: Charles, William, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, will all be supporting Johnson’s attempts to hold it together and no doubt tout the benefits of wind power. With the UK now being a tiny polluter in the global scheme of things, perhaps we should wonder “why bother?” if no one is serious about cleaning up. Although emissions control may have become something of a sideshow at the climate conference, Britain’s role in kicking all this off some 250 years ago with the industrial revolution may be putting something of a moral obligation on the royal family to do something useful and lead the world out of it. Given that they are making a few quid for the family coffers in the process, why not?
Unfortunately, the queen will not be going to COP26. But at 95 years old and under the advice of her physicians, she is understandably excused and can stay home to catch up on Netflix’s The Crown to see if Charles becomes king. If the throne skips a generation to the more popular Prince William, as some people speculate it might, it would give the family more clout internationally. His taking a pop at billionaire space tourists to fix the mess on this planet before going elsewhere suggests he has his head squarely on his shoulders and will take up the baton from his dad at some point. And that gets my vote.
As would converting the old Aston to run on hydrogen.
Neil Newman is a thematic portfolio strategist focused on pan-Asian equity markets