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Why COP26 Will Fail

UN Climate Change Conferences have failed to produce a model of global governance that can tame power politics, let alone forge a sense of shared destiny among countries. And there is little reason to believe this time will be different.

BERLIN – The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) now underway in Glasgow might conclude with a big international agreement. But whatever tactical successes are achieved at COP26, the results are likely to mark a strategic setback for humanity – at least when compared to the hopes of climate activists.

The world is missing target after target. This should not be surprising: while a growing number of countries have set net-zero targets, for example, very few have credible plans to meet them. And even if we did meet existing targets, that would not be enough to achieve the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s main goal: limiting global warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report warns that the planet is likely to reach the 1.5℃ limit in the early 2030s. As long as multilateral engagement is defined by nationalism, power politics, and emotion, rather than solidarity, law, and science, our future will continue to grow bleaker.