Helm Talks Podcast
Helm Talks Podcast
Apr 22, 2021
COP26 - too much hype, too little substance
Play • 11 min
The hype around COP26 is getting out of hand.  The excitement is palpable - the US and China, and then the other world’s leaders are all, if one believes the spin, going to come up with targets that add up to 2˚C maximum global warming. It will be a triumph for Boris Johnson. We have been here before, at Kyoto, Copenhagen, Durban and Paris. What happened? The concentration of carbon in the atmosphere – the only number that counts – has just kept going up at around 2 parts per million every single year from 1990 onwards. Not a blip following the world financial crisis in 2007/08, nor even a blip for 2020.

The COP process has not worked so far. Why? Because the climate change problem is very much about China, India, Africa and Brazil. China is building coal power stations so fast as to more than compensate for all the coal closures in the US and the EU. It has 1,000 or so power stations, burns more than half the world’s coal and is 28% of total CO2 emissions. The developing countries all want the developed countries to pay. COP26 needs to come up with credible targets that are actually going to be met and massive financial transfers for this top-down framework to deliver the goods. The alternative is bottom-up, building a coalition of the unilateral willing, to include the EU, the UK and the US. But this means unilaterally committing to carbon consumption targets, to pay for the carbon footprint and to include imports. The polluters should really pay for their carbon consumption. It turns out that carbon border taxes incentivise exporters to tax carbon at home rather than pay the carbon duties to the likes of the UK and US governments - and that proliferates the carbon prices globally.
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