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The Economist Magazine 5th November 2021

The rain it raineth every day,” Feste tells the audience at the end of “ Twelfth Night”. And the cop it copperth every year. Since 1995 the countries bound by the un Framework Convention on Climate Change (unfccc) have missed only one conference of the parties—when the pandemic struck in 2020. These cops can produce action plans (Bali, 2007), mandates (Berlin, 1995), protocols (Kyoto, 1997), platforms (Durban, 20 11), acrimonious breakdowns (Copenhagen, 2009) and agreements (Paris, 2015). But the rise in the atmosphere’ s green house gas content and the associated warming of the climate continues in spite of them—even when, as so often, they are h yped as the world’s last chance.

As diplomats, scientists, lobbyists, activists, artists, the media, politicians and businesspeople gather in Glasgow forc op26, which begins on October 31st, it is therefore easy to dismiss the entire affair. That would be a mistake. The unfccc and its cops, for all their flaws, play a crucial part in a process that is historic and vital: the removal of the fundamental limit on human flourishing imposed by dependence on fossil fuels.

One reason cops matter is that some of them do in fact mak e a difference. Despite rules on consensus, meaning that the pace is set by the le ast willing, the agreement in P aris committed all parties, rich and poor , to k eep the rise in Earth’ s temperature since the mid19th century well below 2°C. Glasgow will bring fresh national pledges promising increased efforts towards the Paris temperature targets—though they will not be ambitious enough to make meeting those goals likely.

The main reason the unfccc and cop process matters is that the scienc e, diplomacy, activism and public opinion that support it make up the best mechanism the world currently has to help it come to terms with a fundamental truth. The dream of a planet of almost 8bn people all living in material comfort will be unachievable if it is based on an economy powered by coal, oil and natural gas. The harms from the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide would eventually pile up so r apidly that fossil fuel fired development would stall. The Economist Magazine 5th November 2021


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