Global leaders need Trevi

Why do international conferences like COP26 never seem to achieve much?

Arthur, sitting in his high-rise terrace, was laughing and giggling whilst Bill, Samir, his wife Nadia and I sat with big smiles.

Arthur sipped on his ice tea and said that, in Rome, President Biden had an 80(!) car motorcade. He turned serious: ‘how crazy is that?’ Bill chimed in and reasoned that he needs to be protected. Arthur looked to the sky and Samir jumped in, saying: ‘yes, but what kind of message does that give out? 80 cars, a 250 advance-team, and a total team of over 500 to attend the G20 summit in Rome…what kind of pollution, chaos and cost does that all involve?’

Nadia asked: ‘wouldn’t saving that cost and using it to assist the homeless in DC eradicate that problem?’

The weather in London was getting chilly so we moved inside, and Nadia went to the kitchen to put the kettle on and prepare some biscuits. I went along to help but could hear the conversation continue.

Arthur said the Paris agreement on climate was just a piece of paper and he applauded Boris Johnson for calling a spade a spade. Bill wondered if Glasgow would be any different. He added that someone ought to calculate the cost of the COP26 summit: the leaders going there; the security; the overall expenses to hold the event; and the chaos that would ensue in Glasgow.

Samir said cynically: ‘it would be great if such funds were used to alleviate poverty, provide more scholarship for education, and greater vaccination.’ He added that all these meetings are choreographed in a manner where there is no movement or real dynamics. ‘The sherpas1 of each leader have prepared the end results, the points of agreement and the final communiqué, and there is no need for the meeting’, Bill affirmed. Samir said the leaders appear for appearances sake rather than real debate, discussion and engagement – that it is only a political show.

I walked in carrying the tea tray, trailed by Nadia with the biscuits. ‘Dear friends,’ I said, ‘at this stage of history, mediocrity reigns, so do not expect too much…remember what the leaders did at the G20 summit in Rome: they went to the Trevi2 Fountain and tossed in coins for hopes and wishes. It’s true that we have reached that level. Global leaders can do more, but you can’t ask more from those who don’t have more.’

Samir asked: ‘what does that leave us with?’. I replied, as I was pouring the tea, ‘let’s hope all the global leaders have a Trevi fountain in their backyard.’

1 A sherpa in the political realm is a person designated to prepare all the leader’s positions, speeches, press statements after negotiating with all the relevant government departments and the other leaders they will be publicly meeting.

2 The Trevi Fountain is the most beautiful fountain in Rome and, according to lore, you toss a coin, back facing the fountain, and make a wish.