December 3, 2021

Did COP26 Have Upsides for Pro-Limited Government Environmentalists?

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

The United Nations’ 2021 climate change conference wrapped up mid-November, and it has been a hot topic in environmental circles and news ever since. Commonly referred to as COP26 (standing in for the 26th Conference of the Parties), it drew governments and stakeholders from across the globe to Glasgow, Scotland over the many days of the conference. Americans supportive of limiting government have been publicly skeptical of the United Nations, and COP26 was not exempt. But did the conference have benefits for the pro-limited government environmentalist?

Actually, yes. Here are three key things: 

Market-Based Environmentalists Held Their Own

Despite every politician and news outlet pretending this is not the case, pro-limited government and pro-market environmentalists do exist, and they were thriving at COP26. Take the American Conservation Coalition, for example. The market-based, right-wing environmental group took COP26 by storm. Not only were they present but they were extremely visible through panel participation and dialogue. The Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions (C3 Solutions) was also active, hosting the Freedom and Climate Symposium concurrent with COP26. These groups and others played a significant role in forcing the acknowledgement of  diversity within the environmental movement. 

The Most Important Partnerships Weren’t Through Government

One of the most influential partnerships to result from COP26 was not a partnership of governments – it was a partnership across the financial world. A coalition of bankers, investors, and insurers with a collective $130 trillion available at their fingertips pledged to focus on investments that were net-zero emissions and that had combating climate change at their heart. Other financial pledges were also made. Green investing is the key to unlocking the next era of environmental innovation, and innovation is at the heart of driving environmentalism through the market, not the government. 

Exposed The Problems With Reliance Upon Government 

The end of COP26 left many disappointed, including United Nations officials themselves. While there were a lot of pledges made by varying governments, not many pledges had teeth, and even two weeks of dedicated environmental work by governments did not accomplish anything noteworthy. While the conference was preceded by lofty expectations, the conclusions were lukewarm. While this might seem like a letdown, it can actually be flipped to a positive – more and more people learned that big government pledges and partnerships are not going to lead to much change. The full realization of this concept will be what lights a fire for more and more private action to improve the environment. 

I never thought I would be looking forward to anything associated with the United Nations, but thanks to some outcomes of COP26, I’m looking forward to the next climate change conference. Other pro-limited government environmentalists should look at the outcomes and allow themselves to feel optimistic too.