The Cop26 summit: deals and absences

“The Methane Moment”, but this is exactly how the next decade has been defined, a nickname that is already popular amongst environmentalists. During the Cop26 summit, hosted by Great Britain in Glasgow, the 105 signatory states of the Global Methane Pledge committed themselves to cutting methane emissions by one third: the signatory countries, which together account for 70% of global GDP, are therefore ready to honour their commitments by 2030, and reduce the temperature by 0.2 degrees by 2050.

But more than a marathon, the race to the goal seems more like a relay race: although the intentions are the best, and necessary above all, to save an already highly destabilized ecosystem, the States have not signed individual goals to reach the collective commitment of the 30% reduction. It must be that, evidently, the battle against global warming brings with it different facets of geopolitical competitions.

A race to prove who is more committed, at least this seems to be the view of Washington that has not spared comments about the absences of Russia and China above all. But if the pact with American and European traction aims to reduce the release of methane, there must also be considered the reasons: in fact, focusing on these emissions means reducing more quickly the indices of global warming, but because methane is basically destined to last in the atmosphere only 12 years, a twentieth compared to carbon dioxide. Faster results, then, in the shortest term. This would already be a great step forward, gloriously flaunted by the American president Joe Biden, who is trying to catalyze the attention on the turning point of this agreement, perhaps also to take his eyes off the domestic problems of the clash between moderates and progressives on the agenda regarding social and environmental refinancing.

But from the Glasgow summit also emerges a more consolidated “strategic” partnership, as the protagonists like to call it, between Russia and China, the greatest absentees of the Roman G20. Their respective leaders haven’t left their borders since January and by the sound of their absences they are renewing an alliance as an antithesis to the US-led world order. On climate change, Beijing and Moscow converge on the principles outlined but move the deadline for its achievement to 2060: it takes time, say Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping who discreetly support each other, because in fact each pursue its own way, but do not get in each other’s paths. Perhaps even fascinating India, the world’s third largest polluter, which is moving the date of climate neutrality to 2070.

The Glasgow summit continues to issue declarations signed in alternation, but the absentees are always the major polluters. If the U.S., in fact, led the pact against methane, on the other hand, however, have not signed the stop the use of coal: in good company, of course, China and India. The latter, in primis, host almost half of the coal plants active or under construction around the world and if Beijing, for its part, has committed to stop the financing of power plants abroad, it is certain that it has not contemplated the idea of stopping the extraction of coal at home. And the same goes for India, which currently has some 28 power plants in the pipeline.

So, during the Cop26 summit, the most obvious problems were identified, also because who the “bad guys” were was already known. But the States continue individually, each with different timing dictated conveniently by the obvious different resources, whether economic or political. And so there are those who point to the reduction of methane, those who point to the stop of coal and those who observe the sides intent on obstructing the industries of the protagonists: and it is known that there is the climate emergency, but there is also the geopolitical competition.