On Tuesday, I chaired a session at Policy Exchange addressed by Tony Abbott, the eloquent former prime minister of Australia, now an adviser to the British Board of Trade. Although he acknowledged severe recent difficulties, he declared himself optimistic that free-trading democracies, such as his country and ours, can combine to strengthen rules-based, transparent trade (i.e. the sort of trade China dislikes) across the world. I truly hope he is right.
One problem, though, which we barely touched on, is climate change. In the West, this is considered the great global challenge of our time. In developing countries, however, it is often seen as the West’s way of denying them the advantages which made us rich. This week, India did not show up for the 51-country meeting in London to prepare for COP26 in Glasgow, a deliberate snub. India is the world’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, but also the second largest in population. Its emissions per head rank only 134th in the world.
I hope that, on this subject, what we used to call the Third World prevails. Alok Sharma, the COP26 president, describes his conference as the ‘last chance’ to prevent a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels. How can he possibly know that? What India can possibly know, however, is the appalling economic disadvantage it will suffer if forced to decarbonise at the rate prescribed by western moralists.
This is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator Notes, which appears in the forthcoming issue of the magazine.