While the planet is in peril according to climate scientists, European leaders play politics. Image: Pixabay / Gerd Altmann

It looks as though polarization has become the new normal. From simple encounters in a shopping mall to (international) politics, we no longer have the time or patience for other human beings, as we are so self-centered that the “me syndrome” appears to be the only pattern that our egos are willing to follow.

Gains and losses are measured only according to our short-term objectives, and others’ feelings or opinions are taken out of the equation, as we simply cannot be bothered to look at the grand scheme of things and be decent enough to do the right thing.

Sadly, the same applies to climate change.

Although it is apparent that we are in this together, some of us still want to play the blame game and choose to be cynical about the future of this planet and the next generations.

Let us take Prince Charles, who delivered the opening address at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference now under way in Glasgow, for example.

Although he has spent most of his life speaking out on green issues and until recently appeared to sympathize with the young generation’s desperation about the current state of climate affairs that leads them to protest in the streets, he said he now believes that the way groups such as Extinction Rebellion voice their anger “isn’t helpful” and “alienates people.”

Notably, bearing in mind that the British heir to the throne, who has spent 50 years “trying to raise awareness” about climate change, allegedly releases more than 430 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year by traveling with private jets and helicopters, the fact that he converted his 51-year-old Aston Martin DB6 to run on “surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese process” is a bad joke.

Another questionable star of the COP26 show was European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who, as usual, did not miss a chance to voice her solidarity with the US by parroting President Joe Biden and condemning China and Russia in an interview with CNN.

“If we look at China, I think we should remind them that they have the ambition of global leadership. That should match with global climate leadership,” said von der Leyen, adding that “we would have liked to see China and Russia being here.”

What is especially ironic about the president of the EC lecturing others on “climate leadership” while urging “all of us to do whatever it takes now to limit global warming,” because nature can no longer pay the price of humans’ carbon emissions, during her COP26 speech, is that she is a hypocrite, as her lofty words do not match her actions.

We also have the host of the COP26 circus, “a clownish” Boris Johnson, who issued a stark warning for the world that it is “one minute to midnight,” yet failed to add that happy and wealthy people do not count the time.

As usual, empty words follow empty pledges as our leaders, to quote Prince Charles, “just talk.”

According to a recent survey conducted by the European Investment Bank, we European citizens are under no illusions that our governments will fail to handle the climate crisis that 81% of us view it as the “biggest challenge of this century.”

The sad truth is that 75% of respondents are more concerned about the climate crisis than their governments, and 58% believe their own country will not drastically reduce its CO2 emissions by 2050.

The question is: Why does the European Union brag so much about its (over)ambitious climate plan known as “Fit for 55” and put so much effort into condemning Beijing and Moscow?

The answer comes from Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who was extremely bold during an interview with Bloomberg Television at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

“We do this because we believe this is the way we gain economic and technological advantage,” said De Croo, adding that “we also do it because we will use it almost as a trade weapon” against big polluters such as China and Russia.

While European leaders are busy weaponizing their climate policy to antagonize Beijing and Moscow, both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin made a powerful statement by refusing to contribute to the already high carbon footprint associated with flights to COP26 and not attending the conference for the sake of mere attendance.

What is most frightening about European eco-cynicism is that it is proving a lack of sincerity and willingness to join hands with other great powers to tackle the common climate challenge, as well as deep contempt for its own citizens’ legitimate concerns.

Whatever we may think about Russia and China, we have no other choice but to cooperate, not compete, with them on the climate. Otherwise, our shared future looks bleak.

Adriel Kasonta

Adriel Kasonta is a London-based political risk consultant and lawyer. He is an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in Moscow and former chairman of the International Affairs Committee at the oldest conservative think tank in the UK, Bow Group. Kasonta is a graduate of London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). You can follow him on Twitter @Adriel_Kasonta.