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Nationalism vs COP26

It is 6:30 PM on a humid Thursday in Brisbane, Australia. I am out on my balcony in the northern suburbs, watching growling, flashing storm clouds rolling up from the southwest, down from Beaudesert and Ipswich. Luckily, this rain is late today, and proud Aussies attending the Ashes were not washed out like yesterday. But soon the clouds will be upon me, and I will be rained back inside to watch the lightning show from my couch, eyes wide like a child.

by Ashton Darracott

I have lived in Brisbane for six years. Situated in the small subtropical region of Southeast Queensland, summer is hot and sunny and winter is also (but not as) hot and sunny. However, a lot of time has passed between December six years ago and December now. The summers are hotter and wetter. The storms are getting darker, heavier, longer, and more frequent. The winters are more bitter. The science and the data notwithstanding, the difference in our climate is undeniable. And we are starting to live through it.

Despite the inclusion of a record number of more diverse viewpoints, there was still an abysmal gender imbalance with the convention being headed mainly by men.

But the Ashes are on! And Australia is flogging England. Now is not the time for politics. But for many of the general Australian population, it is never the time for politics, and certainly not the politics of climate change. This is the state of nationalism in Australia and much of the remainder of the developed Western world.

It is not that there is no climate change action occurring around the world. And it is also not to say that that action is not meaningful. However, it is slow-moving, driven by convincing nationalist rhetoric and little ‘l’ liberal politics cutting the world up into little pieces like a cake. This is entirely undermining most bone fide efforts to combat climate change and is sabotaging a concerted effort to keep the earth habitable. Without coordinated global effort, countries will not achieve much then on their own. COP26 revealed this starkly and swiftly.

My observations on nationalism have led me to conclude that the core emotion that lies under this concept is simply defensiveness on a mass and collective scale. It perpetuates the harmful us versus them narrative against the world at large. In turn, we hold our cards close to our chest, without realising that if we share our hand, everyone in the group can get four of a kind and win the game together.

Forums such as COP26 are important in the global effort to combat climate change, but they are only as productive as the leaders who attend are passionate and visionary. In 2021, there were more female leaders than ever before. We are yet to see what level of change this makes for every country’s domestic climate change action and their approach to international cooperation.

Despite the inclusion of a record number of more diverse viewpoints, there was still an abysmal gender imbalance with the convention being headed mainly by men. In terms of what should be done, it is vital that we equalise the voices in the climate policy debate and action. But also in the projects headed by leaders who are not interested in the conservative politics of nationalism but are committed to a climate policy pragmatism and creativity that will quite literally save the world.

It is now a few hours later, and the storm has mostly passed. The winds have stopped blowing and the sky has closed on itself. An ambivalent fork of lightning illuminates the clouds intermittently, the breeze is pleasant and cool. But tomorrow’s forecast predicts the same weather again. This will be a long summer for many.

Ashton Darracott, was the second runner up in the Young Diplomat Review short essay competition on the COP26. Ashton is a final year Law and Fine Arts student at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. As the Editor-In-Chief for Young Australians in International Affairs, she works on editing and publishing the policy recommendations and analysis of Australia’s bright young minds. Currently, Ashton works in the domestic criminal law system in Queensland, and she envisions a career in either the Australian public service or the criminal law domain.


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