Technology Fetishism Reigns at COP26. It’ll Keep Us Burning Fossil Fuels.

The “problem with COP,” said a UN observer, is that “everyone has a business class mentality.” In the groupthink of political leaders and diplomats gathered at the Glasgow summit, above all those from the Global North, when addressing the climate crisis, a business approach must prevail. Efficiency Measures The star role is taken by new technologies. Regulation should be “soft”: all promises and no sanctions. Virtually all industries should carry on expanding without restraint — and of the 35 stalls at COP26 that parade countries’ green credentials, only twoMentioned the need to stop using fossil fuels. “The marketplace,” U.S. climate envoy John Kerry assured journalists in Glasgow, will shut down the fossil fuel industries so there’s no pressing need for politics to intervene.

This outlook is increasingly incompatible with reality. Tech solutions are unrealistic in their optimism. The market isn’t shutting down The fossil fuelSector at anything like the pace required, in Kerry’s USA and elsewhere. Pollution from the wealthy must be addressed immediately: The richest one percent will soon be emitting 16% of global emissions. Other industries, such as aviation, cattle, and SUVs, must also shrink. This can be done without wearing a hairshirt, according to Julian Allwood, a Cambridge University engineer. has shownIt is possible, but it will require strong regulation.

The COP26 agenda is also being dominated more directly by the business community. Global negotiations require that hosts exude credibility. But this is not happening. Low Glasgow. Details are emerging every day of the influence of climate deniers and the fossil-fuel lobby at the heart of Britain’s government.

Protester holds a sign featuring Boris Johnson's face surrounded with the text "Bla Bla Bla While We Burn Burn Burn" during a COP26 demonstration in Trafalgar Square in London, U.K., on November 6, 2021.
Protester holds a sign featuring Boris Johnson’s face surrounded with the text “Bla Bla Bla While We Burn Burn Burn” during a COP26 demonstration in Trafalgar Square in London, U.K., on November 6, 2021.

November 3 was a striking example. The summit’s host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had been Enjoy The limelight. He left the stage that day and flew home. private jetCharles Moore, his former boss during his time as a a businessman, invited him to London to dine. Daily TelegraphColumnist. Moore, a notorious climate change denier, is close friends with Owen Paterson. Paterson.You can find more information at Tory parliamentarian former government minIt is possible to also use the ister keyword. Has beenThe scandal involved a long-running corruption investigation that was Get it now These are the most important headlines.

That same day, on Johnson’s instructions, Tory MPs voted to overturn the finding by Parliament’s standards committee that Paterson had acted corruptly — and to rip up the Parliament’s entire system for combating sleaze. It was a remarkable act. Paterson proved that corruption was real Did He will receive a six-figure annual sum for lobbying private companies in Parliament. DidIt is illegal to fail to declare it It is Not in accordance with parliamentary rules.

Although the Paterson story was about his corrupt activities that day, we should have known. Be aware Among his other career highlights is his hostility towards environmentalism. He has long been at the center of Britain’s climate-denial fraternity — which includes his own brother-in-law, Matt “King Coal” Ridley. Paterson claims global heating could be a good thing for Britain; he pooh-poohs those who “get emotional” about such issues.

This was more than mere yapping at the fringes. Paterson used the position of environment secretary in mid-2010s, to push for the expansion frackingAmong other environmental delinquencies,

This prompts us to ask the question: “W?”Johnson would put his political capital behind this tool of the fossil fuel industry Not only is it a risk that the Tories are seen as the party of sleaze once more, but it also damages his green credentials.

The answer has a lot to do with the transformation of climate denialism into climate delay or climate dereliction.

Johnson is the archetype. Before his premiership, he was a climate sceptic. He was Malthusian. He fed his family. Telegraph readers with scraps of climate mysticism, proposing that a mini ice age could be upon us “by 2035,” and throwing snide remarks at the renewables sector — wind turbines can “barely pull the skin off a rice pudding.”

Most memorable was his Telegraph column entitled “Forget global warming: global over-population is the issue.”

“The biggest single challenge facing the Earth,” Johnson argued, is not climate change but women’s unrestrained fertility. Stanley, his father and a technocrat at the World Bank and EU and Malthusian zealot, is Stanley’s savior. Although both men are vocal exponents of controlling women’s fertility, Johnson Sr. fathered six children and Johnson Jr. has added at least half a dozen more to the global population. TThis is not your typical hypocrisy. For Malthusians, different moral rules Do And should Apply to the rich and the poor. That’s what Malthus is all about; it’s what earned him his place on the conservative seat in the pantheon of classical political economy.

Johnson, upon entering 10 Downing Street, experienced a Damascene conversion. “How Boris Johnson went from climate sceptic to eco-warrior” ran the typical headline. Global capitalism must stop its addiction to fossil fuels, as any eco-warrior will tell you. How would the eco-campaigning government do on this count? Is it possible that the new eco-campaigning government would wage war against the combustion of oil with the same fervor as its Thatcher-era predecessor?

It is not even a fraction of it. Johnson filled his cabinet full of climate deniers, such as Jacob Rees Mogg, opponents to renewable energy like Andrea Leadsom, as well as supporters of the coal industryPriti Patel. His education minister Nadhim Zahawi, pants nearly £400,000An oil company earns approximately $540,000 per year. His health minister Sajid Javid, is a militant supporter of the fracking industry — and “a big fan” Ayn Rand’s hypercapitalism. Johnson appointed Alok Sharma President of the COP26 summit. Sharma is also on the fossil-fuel payroll. He has a lot of money. five-figure sumsAt least two oil companies and has repeatedly voted for fossil-fuel expansion in parliament

Johnson’s conversion, then, was not to eco-warrior. It was a significant shift. According to one of his aides, he was partly responding to “elite fashion” and to a changing electoral atmosphere. “Forget global warming!” doesn’t play well with voters. “We’re making things happen!” certainly does.

But the crucial staging post on Johnson’s journey from climate denial to climate delay came when he woke to the potential of green growth. Whereas for his earlier self. climate change posed a threat to the neoliberal “business as usual” that had served his class so well and must therefore be doubted or denied, Johnson 2.0 recognizes that essentially the same economic agenda could, with moderate adjustments, be marketed as a response to the climate crisis. The core green-growth message is that all systems — energy, travel, housing, etc. — can continue as normal and indefinitely even if, in some cases, new materials and technologies are required. The subtext is that fossil-fuel consumption need not be addressed directly; technologies will provide a short-circuit, a “technological fix.”

The surest test of whether a strategy can be classed as “eco-warrior” or “climate delay” is to ask whether it demonstrably reduces emissions In the next few yearsspeculative promises in the future. Three events last month shed light on the British government’s credentials in this regard.

The first group saw the campaign group Insulate BritainBlock ports and motorways to demand the funding of insulation for all social housing by 2025. This will be followed by low-carbon retrofits for all homes by 2030. This plan offers an obvious ‘win win’: a jobs program that would upgrade skills; insulation of the draughty homes of poorer citizens, ending fuel poverty and saving thousands of lives; and the retrofitting of all homes to enable a successful transition from gas heating to electric heat pumps, thereby switching off one of Britain’s biggest fossil-fuel spigots. Any government of an “eco-warrior” disposition, or one that supported a social agenda of leveling upIt was embraced by Johnson. Johnson’s sought to put the protestors behind bars.

Second, Rishi, the Chancellor of India, announced his budget just as COP26 delegates assembled in Glasgow to finalize their NDCs. It contained virtually no funding for buildings insulation, no significant green measures and some positively brown ones, notably the slashing of tax on domestic aviation — this in a small country crisscrossed by rail and coach networks.

Two COP26 protesters hold signs calling for serious climate policy in London, U.K., on November 6, 2021.
Two COP26 protesters hold signs calling on London, U.K. to adopt serious climate policy, November 6, 2021.

The third was the government’s Net Zero Strategy. It emphasizes three technologies, including electric vehicles, offshore wind and nuclear energy. 501 mentions in its 368 pages). These, according the document, will be key to enabling Britain reach net zero by 2050.

The Net Zero Strategy is a clear signal of a shift in energy policy. Significant emissions reductions could be possible. The keystone technologies are also speculative. Although Hydrogen, SAF, and CCS have been proven, they are not yet available for public use. tinyIn terms of scale, many are failing. Britain boasts the following: No functioning CCS projects, No “green hydrogen” plants, and No SAF plants. Their success as pillars would require a large scale jump-start and subsequent rollout. This would include the construction of the plants and storage facilities, adaptation of entire heating and transport networks (in the case for hydrogen), and exploration and development of suitable aquifers in the case for CCS. This type of scale-up typically takes decades.

SAF and green hydrogen, on the other hand, require enormous energy inputs that will need to be provided. Britain’s hydrogen strategy, published this August, places its heavy bets on blue hydrogen, with only small projectsIt is also known as its green cousin. Blue hydrogen should be renamed brownish-blue: It’s dubiousAnd leakyCCS is a gamble on its success at scale. The ultimate goal is to give a new lease on life. to the fossil fuel giants.

It is overwhelming to see the complexity and scope of any one of these programs. Arguably, one could see Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley AuthorityAs an analog, it would be to ignore the fact that its central technology was the dam. It was built on millennia worth of engineering trial, error, and faced no new problems of scaling up. We should certainly refrain from likening them to missions of “targeted specificity,” such as the Manhattan Project or the moonshot. And yet this is precisely the comparison that John Kerry drewThis was earlier in the year. “Fifty per cent of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero by 2050,” he proposed, “are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have. … But look at what we did to push the creation of vaccines, look at what we did to go to the moon, look at what we did to invent the internet.” (If nothing else, you have to admire the chutzpah. The world is burning but the fire brigade will arrive. Half of the equipment they need doesn’t exist and they don’t know how to make it, but hey, they’ll find a way. If you’re troubled and need inspiration, gaze at the moon.)

COP26 demonstrator holds a sign that says "DEAR CAPITALISM, IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME. JUST KIDDING IT'S YOU." in London, U.K., on November 6, 2021.
COP26 demonstrator holds a sign that says “DEAR CAPITALISM, IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME. JUST KIDDING IT’S YOU.” in London, U.K., on November 6, 2021.

This mindset is pervasive, a dominant strand within elite responses to the climate emergency in Britain, the U.S. and beyond. Its consequences are troubling. It sustains the technocratic myth that decarbonization must center on the deployment of new technologies, with a downplaying of the potential roles for well-known technologies (such as buildings insulation) and for social-systemic change. It breeds complacency: We needn’t worry about burning oil and coal because the tech guys will catch and store the carbon; fuel for transportation can simply be switched from hydrocarbons to hydrogen; planes can fly on biofuels and batteries, and so forth.

The leaders gathered at COP26 with the British government at the forefront, remain under the control of technology fetishism. It’s a syndrome that in recent memory proved the undoing of what had been a supposedly successful COP gathering. I am referring specifically to COP21 in Paris which produced the famous Paris Agreement. That concord of 2015 was based heavily on the COP delegates’ magical belief in a particular technology: Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Since then, BECCS has been discreditedThe Paris Agreement, on which it was based, has collapsed. COP26 hosts seem determined not to learn anything from this disaster.The true beacons of COP26 are civil-society groups that have encircled negotiations, applying pressure on those within and raising awareness outside. As the summiteers disperse, so the task turns to building on that experience and holding lawmakers’ feet to the fire.