Deep in his dream, memories emerge of an event long ago…
With the bash of the gavel and mop of his brow, Alok Sharma could finally clock out and hurry backstage to surely find the nearest wall to punch through in frustration and despair. Yet another unoptimised UN climate summit. Not that this was really his fault.
Sharma was a man previously known (if he was known at all) for hosting the Government’s dismal Kraftwerk tribute of a Covid press briefing on the days everyone was too busy to watch. Who knew that only appointing the Berkshire MP to this job full time 11 months ago in the midst of a pandemic would set him up for a failure to coerce the two big CO2 emitting dictators of the world to even show up to the seldom sunlit Glasgow uplands.
It was always a slight delusion to expect anything from COP 26, the tone set when spokesperson for the environmentally disillusioned youth Greta Thunberg said beforehand, that ‘nothing real will come out of it.’ The ‘creative accounting’ she foresaw manifested itself in the form of a methane pledge, which the largest emitter Russia declined to sign, and a deforestation pledge which the fastest global deforester Indonesia almost immediately walked back on.
There the Prime Minister was, preparing to unmask his green credentials around the elderly and vulnerable alike. The positive spin of hosting an international summit where he could promote Global Britain – in a slightly less vacuous manner – would show him entirely uninvolved with detailed negotiations, instead apologising to the Israeli Energy Minister for wheelchair inaccessibility, and hurrying back to London on a private jet to indulge in the Owen Paterson scandal before jetting back to ensure the world that Global Britain was not ‘remotely corrupt’, days after voting to bypass a Parliamentary Standards Commission. Would God even know what negative spin would resemble? Maybe the almighty would highlight the vanishing Tory lead in opinion polls, for the first time since he assumed the second highest job in the land. Second only to a Daily Telegraph columnist.
On the summit goes, the gossip of Joe Biden’s wind around Camilla testament to the tedium of negotiations. We don’t blame Biden for his off-the-cuff exultation, any excuse to delay meeting John Kerry, or even worse, an unapproved journalist. But then, the protests arrive, galvanising masses into a fervour as great as the invasion of Iraq. Protests back then subsequently fell on deaf ears.
This time, we know some delegates are listening to the voices on the street, but only because some of them are Green Party leaders escaping the dreariness of government to both hold the megaphone and attempt to answer their Jekyll’s demands. Others meanwhile, feel obliged to walk out, angry at how their own voices in negotiations were being ignored.
But this is the existential crisis faced, a phase down towards oblivion that could bring the death of millions. Not that defeatism ever got anyone anyway. People really do exaggerate these risks for their own pity. If only Pericles could knock some sense into these blow-hardy…
It seemed a bleak point for Boris Johnson (now Lord Johnson of Ennui-sur-Blasé) and his dream to be so rudely cut off, but he was woken by the sound of rumbling from below. He fumbled around and saw his calendar, it was October 2050 and the sloshing sounds were inescapable, instantly recognisable. Deep down, he knew London was flooding again.
Illustration courtesy of Alexa Sambrook