COP26: the Cow in the room

I came to the Climate Conference (COP26) with low expectations, progress of any meaningful kind seemed unlikely.

But as I leave it looks a lot better than that. On the sidelines but looking like the main event, China and the US have agreed to work together to reduce emissions – it’s really something, the two biggest polluters on the planet forming some kind of mutually assured de carbonisation pact.

The draft agreement from the conference is not signed as I write this, I hope it is, as there’s has real progress in it. Fossil fuels for the first time are identified as something we have to stop using. Vested interested have prevented this for over a quarter century so far. Progress against the crucial 1.5 degree temperature target will get annual scrutiny. And the promises each country makes (known as NDCs) are going to be reviewed each year too. All of this ratchets up the focus.

In other signs of progress Boris Johnson has started using the train. That’s more important than it might sound.

So my reading of the outcome is like this – we’ve written down one of the biggest things we need to do, end fossil fuels – and made provision for annual discussions and target adjustments – to make sure we hit 1.5 degrees. And our prime minister has started to walk the talk. That last one is potentially as important as it is small in the scheme of things. What leaders do matters as much as what they say.

What’s missing is the written acknowledgement of the other big thing we need to do – end animal farming. We know we have to but no country yet in the world has been brave enough to say it. It’s the Cow in the room.

Food needs to be on the Climate menu. Otherwise we’re only looking at half the problem.