Climate change: Action, not political hot air, will cut carbon emissions - opinion

Actual investments in nuclear, carbon capture, wind and hydro will do much more for our planet than world leaders getting together via private jet to make goals without plans

 DELEGATES CONFERRING at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow earlier this month. (photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)
DELEGATES CONFERRING at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow earlier this month.
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

Over recent weeks, the United Nations, first in Rome, now in Glasgow, has been occupied with one major topic: climate change. This is not new; since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the UN views climate change as an area to make a real difference. The problem is the UN’s efforts have primarily been a feel-good exercise at best. 

The United States is the only nation on track to exceed its 2015 commitments, and they pulled out of the agreement for the length of the Trump presidency. President Joe Biden has reentered the deal but has failed to show what difference that makes for the issue at large. G20 world leaders were hopeful that recommitting to reduce rising temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius before heading off to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) would set an excellent tone for the event. There was just one major snag; they disagreed on a plan to achieve that goal, and a goal without a plan is just hot air.

Glasgow kicked off with a situation that frankly followed the theme of the final days of the Rome G20. Israel’s Energy Minister Karin Elharrar was denied entry to the conference due to the lack of wheelchair access. After being escorted everywhere but into the event, Elharrar missed speeches by world leaders; it is unclear how such accommodations are legal, let alone possible.

UN goals with plans have failed numerous times in these settings. For example, the UN previously committed to reducing global deforestation, which has only gone up since the commitment. Brazil and Russia have joined that effort, which is significant since they are two of the main culprits of deforestation globally, but their actions are yet to be seen.

 An image of Earth is projected on the venue for COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland Britain, November 1, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY) An image of Earth is projected on the venue for COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland Britain, November 1, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY)

What gives me hope is not speeches read by politicians but substantial changes being made by businesses. At the COP26, several banks combined, managing over $130 trillion in assets, agreed to consider climate change when making future business decisions. That is something tangible and was accomplished without a mandate. The free market, not bureaucracy, is the path forward for combating environmental risks.

The actual conversation around Glasgow needs to be the first-ever Global Conservative Climate Summit. In the backdrop of the COP26, this summit gathered the Right of Center leaders from the world to discuss the Right’s beliefs on an issue that the Left has dominated. As the political commentator Van Jones put it: conservatives need to say “the adults have arrived” regarding climate issues.

Actual investments in nuclear, carbon capture, wind and hydro will do much more for our planet than world leaders getting together via private jet to make goals without plans. President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would move to build new nuclear reactors for the first time in decades. That is a wonderful step that has teeth behind it; we need more of that. Action not hot air will reduce carbon emissions.

The writer is pursuing a master’s in public policy (environmental policy) at Arizona State University.