Opinion – Mathias Alencastro: COP26 will punish liars


Looking at the first week of COP26, we can see a glass that is half full or an empty glass.

On the one hand, commitments on discontinuing coal production, ending fossil fuel financing and reducing global methane emissions are bringing countries closer to the central objective of the international summit: keeping alive the promise of holding back warming global at 1.5°C.

On the other hand, the difference between promise and reality creates a credibility problem. Governments announce targets for 2050 or 2060, but refuse to specify what steps will be taken in the next decade. In the absence of concrete plans, international financing takes a long time to be released.

Faced with so many hesitations, only one country, Morocco, managed to approach the goals set in 2015. What are the promises made at a COP worth? And who watches who in climate policy?

The second week of the COP will be partly dedicated to answering these questions. The European Union defends the whip and carrot strategy. Cooperators will be offered the dollars. To charlatans, sanctions.

The South African government, for example, played to extract maximum benefits and announced an economic transformation megapackage financed by Western powers to the tune of $8.5 billion. The project has been a lifeline to a failing economy for more than a decade. It will, however, reinforce the image of environmental policy as a new imposition on developing countries.

Critics will say that the era of structural adjustment is giving way to an era of climate adjustment.

A minimally functional Brazilian State would have everything to triumph in the contradictions of this new geopolitics of climate. The COP made it clear that the country is lacking in the world, for being the natural leader of a region that is losing global relevance, for being able to reactivate South-South relations —one of the blind spots in the Glasgow discussions— and for its importance in the control of one of the climate’s nuclear reactors, the Amazon.

As is widely known, the Bolsonaro government abdicated all these advantages and treated the COP as a marketing problem that could be mitigated with propaganda and promises that no one believes. This prosaic approach to the first major summit of the post-pandemic era will have serious consequences for the economy.

The European Parliament has scheduled for the end of this year the first debate on imports from regions affected by deforestation, the starting point for the elaboration of the law on “imported deforestation”.

MEPs have already made public, including in an interview with this newspaper, that they intend to exploit Bolsonaro’s calamitous image to mobilize European public opinion, win the support of reluctant governments and subject Brazilian soy to a Venezuelan regime of restrictions.

With so many lies and frauds, the Bolsonaro government ended up legitimizing the creation of a system of incentives and punishments in climate policy. After all, his contribution to the COP was greater than previously thought.


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