Colin Brazier: COP26 is out of touch with the realities of life

It feels like a gathering, a conclave of a priesthood class, who assume WE believe that they, and only they, know the secret of our future salvation

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For the world’s 1.5 billion Roman Catholics today’s important. All Souls Day, when the church remembers ALL those who have lived and died before us.

I mention this because, although it sometimes feels like environmentalism has the trappings of a religion – with Greta Thunberg as a sort of end of days prophet – it actually follows a very different creed.

Christianity professes that all souls are equal and will be judged, not according to their wealth or status, but their behaviour. That’s not how environmentalism works. COP26 does seem to be doing an extremely good job of bearing that out. The whole thing is beginning to read like an extended parable.

Four hundred private jets have flown into Glasgow. Four hundred. The public understands that, after covid, world leaders need to thrash things out in person, not on Zoom.

But where does that leave the other 25,000 delegates, the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio. What role can rich and famous people play? Who elected them? The suspicion is that, at COP, all carbon footprints are equal, but some carbon footprints are more equal than others.

One of today’s sessions, for instance, was chaired by the boss of Sky, who was recently found to be commuting to the UK from the US.

Does COP26 have to be so big? Because, size matters. Environmentalism often seems to require that we miniaturise our lifestyles; that we should wear sack-cloth and ashes, sit in colder homes, take fewer holidays. And suddenly, here we are looking at the people who want us to have less, having more.

We end up listening to the founder of Amazon, claiming to have had a sort of Biblical revelation in space, the sort of looking-down-from-on-high perspective that’s easily found if you’re the world’s richest man. And because all mainstream parties agree that COP is vital, that every news channel says you need to watch events unfold with a degree of attention once reserved for papal decrees, the natives are getting restless.

Because if the British are anything, they are world-leading truffle-hunters of hypocrisy. Their natural posture is inclined to taking the mickey, and puncturing pomposity. It’s kept totalitarianism at bay for centuries. And at COP26, we Brits are sniffing the scent of humbug in spades.

Not all of it is rank hypocrisy, of course. Some of it is cock-up. The disabled Israeli minister today for instance, who couldn’t find any wheelchair access. That episode earned her a personal apology from the Prime Minister.

Some of it is predictable, the tantrum by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who skipped the royal reception and left COP a day early. But some of it is serious.

COP is so big, the optics have been so bad – the leader of the free world fell asleep during the opening speeches – that disgruntled citizens begin to question its wider purpose, its foundational principles.

As one commentator pointed out today, wind is currently generating only 3 per cent of UK electricity, less than coal, and a lot less than gas.

It begs the question, will COP26 do more harm than good?

Might it actually leave such a bad taste in our mouths, that the whole enterprise effectively backfires.

Because sanctimonious intentions do not automatically yield good headlines. Just look at Insulate Britain. Those activists are possessed of a zeal we normally find in would-be religious martyrs.

They know they’re right, and care nothing that most people think they’re both wrong and barmy.

And as with Insulate Britain, so with COP26. It’s seen as out of touch with the realities of life, the sort of life we little people have to live, full of charter flights and roads that aren’t cleared for our cavalcade. Its sheer size has made COP a hostage to fortune.

The hangers-on, the celebrities and has-been politicians, the battalions of preening presenters, it’s too much.

It feels like a gathering, a conclave of a priesthood class, who assume WE believe that they, and only they, know the secret of our future salvation.

Not so much All Soul’s Day as Our Way Or The Highway.