What matters more in COP26 news: climate pledges of the world leaders or their private flights?

    11 Nov 2021

    Eco-activist Max Zalewski made me think about private jets on COP26. He asked a topical question to all conspiracy theorists: how did you imagine the daily lives of the world elite?

    Forbes and the BBC published articles about world leaders who flew to Glasgow for the climate summit on private planes, then ate venison and flew to the best restaurants in London for lunch. Politicians thus make incredible emissions, which contradicts the ideas of the climate summit.

    Forbes writes that on the first day of the summit in Glasgow, 50 private planes landed, and the day before – 118. And, e.g., Boris Johnson flew to have a dinner in London, and some politicians flew at night (to sleep?) to Cannes in southern Europe and Switzerland.

    Meanwhile, Western countries strongly recommend the inhabitants of the “third world,” among other things, to sort garbage and limit consumption.

    Forbes writes that the world’s elite increasingly tells ordinary people about the need to reduce consumption. In contrast, their own consumption and air pollution grow: “Per capita, the richest 80 million people in the world will account for 16% of total emissions globally by 2030, up from 13% in 1990.”

    The situation is similar when it comes to food consumption. The establishment urges the masses to avoid eating meat and other animal products as much as possible because the meat industry badly affects the climate.

    (We’ve written about the need to cut meat and milk consumption here.)

    At the same time, the summit participants actively consumed local and imported meat delicacies (including venison). For example, one Scottish burger means 3.3 kg of CO2 emissions, which is as much as an ordinary person produces in a day with all their activities and consumption.

    (But the menu proclaims: “Our standard burger would have produced 5.1kg of CO2e. By reducing the meat content, we have reduced the carbon footprint by 1.8kg CO2e.”)

    The campaign group Animal Rebellion said that serving meat and dairy products at a climate summit was tantamount to “serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference.”

    These are indisputable facts. But this is only one side of the summit and one side of the propaganda launched against the COP26 by the countries that did not join it.

    Unfortunately for eco-conscious people, the whole business world flies private jets. Did any of the Arabian Gulf leaders fly by Wizzair for the summit? No. This is exactly what capitalism looks like.

    The wealthiest people on the planet generate most greenhouse gas emissions. They constantly are scrutinized the most by civil society. But in democracies only, where the authorities allowed people to ask these questions.

    Meanwhile, in authoritarian countries, questions to leaders about their luxurious lifestyle are simply forbidden. Putin owns the infamous palace, and Kim Jong Un owns the yacht when people of North Korea are starving, suffering from COVID-19, and studying Juche. But the propaganda of these non-democratic countries paints a different picture for the rest of the world: that claims should be made primarily to the Western world.

    Private jets and luxury are a common way of life for Western politicians. Their work looks like this, although it’s hard to believe. If you ever went to such summits and attended at least one buffet, you would know that most issues are resolved on the sidelines, in private meetings. And there are always a lot of delicacies. As a matter of fact, these gatherings of world leaders are too money-gobbling.




    Especially in the world of permanent COVID-19 lockdown, these people (and they also have human feelings) have not seen each other for perhaps several years. And, surprise: most of them are friends, have known each other for decades, and maybe for generations. They used to drink together. This is how negotiations usually take place in the world of politics.

    The climate summit is made so that these thriftless world leaders, the people’s deputies, agree on something among themselves. At COP26, they will make commitments about the climate. Because if they do not have an agreement, then in eight years, the planet will heat up by 1.5° C. It will be a disaster for everyone.

    But this is only the beginning of the climate crisis, and they, these capitalists, will be worse off just the least. That’s the problem. They ate venison at the summit and will eat it unless the consciousness of all humankind related to the environment, consumption, and emissions changes.

    And it seems that now world politicians are finally deciding something progressive. We hear their pledges to move to climate neutrality, reduce emissions, and maintain the planet’s climate balance.

    These commitments are not beneficial, first of all, to those countries whose leaders did not attend the summit: Russia, China, Brazil.

    (“This week Jair Bolsonaro, the beleaguered president, decided to eat gnocchi with distant relatives in northern Italy rather than attend COP26,” Economist sarcastically states.)

    We live in class inequality, the struggle of regimes, often at its very epicenter. The only question is that this inequality looks different worldwide.

    Westerners live in abundance and deliberately go on climate protests, caring about the future. And many of them do volunteer, help the poor, and are engaged in education.

    And the inhabitants of the “third world” barely survive on their own. Still, on the example of private jets at COP26, they look for world conspiracies. 

    Of course, it is remarkable that the leading Western media criticize private flights to COP26. But we always have to take into account broader context and the ongoing information war.

    To fight the anti-environmental propaganda, the whole world needs to work harder on education, critical thinking, and emotional maturity. (I’ve already claimed to get rid of infantilism in the author’s column here.)

    The summit will end, and only NGOs’ activities will resemble a politician that they made decisions not only on paper but they are obliged to implement it.

    Well-known thanks to the media, Greta Thunberg, who passionately proclaims climate protests mottos, is a perfect actor of such a movement.

    Unfortunately, not all countries have their “Gretas.” It’s time for us to become like her.

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