By Christopher Caldwell
Mr. Caldwell is a contributing Opinion writer and the author of “The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties” and “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West.”
The big annual United Nations forum for debate on climate change ended this month in Glasgow in a way that left many attendees bewildered. Money men have taken the thing over.
COP26, as the event was called, was less like its predecessors and more like a second “Davos” — the January meeting of the World Economic Forum where the global economy’s moguls and regulators meet to map out our economic future. Dozens of private jets arrived for COP26, bringing investors and fossil-fuel lobbyists in embarrassing profusion. The finance writer Gillian Tett noted that between 2015 and today, the “tribe” of COP attendees had been transformed from one of “environment ministers, scientists and activists” to one of “business leaders, financiers and monetary officials.” That is bound to render the movement’s tactics and goals less democratic.
For environmentalists, COP26 ended in disarray, with the world’s two largest coal-burning countries, China and India, refusing to sign on to a phaseout of that dirtiest of fuels. For the finance industry, prospects were rosier. The new Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero united 450 financial institutions around a “private-sector” plan to move the world to so-called net-zero carbon emissions.