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The Climate Summit To Nowhere

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World leaders converge on Glasgow for a climate summit this weekend, and don’t laugh. This may be the worst-timed summit in history, but the delegates can still do substantial damage to the global economy, though none of it will matter to the climate.

It’s incongruous bordering on the bizarre to organize a summit like this while Europe is battening down for a winter fuel crisis, President Biden is begging OPEC to produce more oil, China is firing up its coal-fueled power plants amid an electricity shortage, and climate-change plans wilt as soon as they’re exposed to the sunlight of democratic politics.

No matter. This summit is called COP26 because there have already been 25. No less than the United Nations admitted this week that nations have made little progress on their previous climate pledges.

But rather than adjust to this political reality, the delegates will make even more unrealistic promises.

The summit’s two main priorities are a pledge to reach “net zero” greenhouse-gas emissions by some future date, perhaps 2050, and to convince developed countries to pay poor countries to sign up for more CO2 reductions. Neither will amount to much.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to make a big emissions pledge for his country—he has little choice since he’s hosting this summit. Mr. Biden will claim the U.S. is also committed to net zero.

But note how Mr. Biden’s climate agenda has been gutted as it has moved through a Congress run by his own party. Enforcement measures are gone, leaving only a gusher of subsidies for green energy.

The commitments of developing countries are even flimsier and depend on bribes from the rich.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this week called for more international aid to finance emissions reductions: A “floor” of $100 billion annually should do it, with $367 billion over the next five years going to ASEAN, thank you.

Out of the 75% reduction in carbon emissions the Philippines plans to achieve by 2030, 72% is contingent on foreign aid, Nikkei reported this week.

Rich countries first made the $100 billion pledge in 2009, but the money still hasn’t appeared. Taxpayers in rich economies will be even less willing to sacrifice their own cash for the climate when they realize who isn’t coming to COP26: Vladimir Putin of Russia and China’s Xi Jinping.

Mr. Xi promised in 2020 to reduce climate emissions—but only after 2030. In the here and now, China is building more coal-powered plants because growing the economy is a far higher priority.

The Kremlin’s budget floats on oil and gas production, and Mr. Putin won’t mind if Western Europe goes to net zero. He’ll then have more energy leverage.

Leaders of other big CO2 emitters, such as world number-three India, will be in Glasgow but might as well not be. Delhi’s environment minister suggested this week that his government won’t sign up for net-zero.

With several hundred million Indians still living in poverty, India needs more energy from fossil fuels, as does all of Africa.

The climate confab could still do some harm with what will be a new focus on private business. A special obsession is regulations to coerce banks and other financial institutions to impose a green agenda via their lending and investment decisions.

COP26 will devote a full day to this subject on Wednesday, and the world’s central banks are already moving to make climate part of their monetary and regulatory decisions.

This has the potential to misallocate scarce investment into boondoggles and corporate-welfare schemes. In this sense, COP26 is coming for your pension fund and employer even if it doesn’t claim your tax money.

The summit underscores the disconnect between the rhetoric over climate and what the world’s public is willing to do about it.

Climateers adopt the rhetoric of the Apocalypse even as they consume fossil fuels as before because they know modern society and development require it.

The climate has warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the 19th century, but the amount of future warming is uncertain. So is the potential damage, as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said this summer.

The world’s climateers could do everyone, including themselves, a favor if they stopped pretending they can alter the climate and thought more about adaptation and energy innovation. Alas, it’s easier to make false promises and demand income redistribution.

Read more at WSJ ($)

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