COP26: what’s happened so far?

We are hopeful that at COP26, world leaders will raise the bar for each other to pursue climate action. Kuki Rokhum, from Tearfund partner Eficor in India, said: 

‘We want the world leaders to make good decisions that will lead to action. And we also want justice for the poorest of the poor living in different parts of the world who live lightly and yet pay heavily.’

Let’s take a look at some of the highs and lows of the first week to shape our prayers before the conference closes. 

The highs

#FridaysforFuture led by young people saw thousands of attendees. This was followed by the Global Day of Action, with millions marching in 300 locations, including the Philippines, France, South Korea, Netherlands and Indonesia). Up to a third of the marches occurred in the UK, with approximately 250,000 people marching in Glasgow alone.

Scotland pledged £1 million for countries suffering loss and damage due to the climate crisis – the first commitment of its kind. 

More than 100 countries have committed to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. A similar number pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. If delivered, these actions could play a significant role in limiting temperature rise. 

More than 40 countries committed to phasing out coal (the most polluting fossil fuel), although deadlines were vague. However, the US and Australia, who are some of the biggest emitters, did not take this step.

As well, 25 countries and institutions pledged to end support for all fossil fuels in their overseas spending by the end of 2022 and to prioritise clean energy instead. This could divert more than $17 billion a year out of fossil fuels and into renewables.

The lows

Indigenous and women’s rights organisations were underrepresented in decision-making, as well as climate justice organisations. Tasneem Essop, director of Climate Action Network which represents over 1,500 organisations from more than 130 nations, stated ‘if participation and inclusion are the measure of legitimacy, then we’re on very shaky grounds’. Concerns have also been raised about disability access around the conference itself. 

Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate activist, was cut out of photos again. The racism of being cut out of a Davos conference photo in favour of European delegates was repeated. Sky News cropped Vanessa from a filmed discussion between Greta Thunberg, Nicola Sturgeon and herself. Many tweeted outraged at how the erasure of Vanessa highlights a wider erasure of African voices in the climate negotiations

Boris Johnson set the tone for UK climate policy in planning to fly home from Glasgow. The UK government planning to allow Shell to build a new oil field in the north of Scotland adds to the irony, as the emissions ‘would be equivalent to the annual carbon pollution from 18 coal-fired power stations’. #StopCambo aims to stop this, similar to the Paid to Pollute campaign which asks big polluters such as the UK government to pay, rather than those facing the pollution. 

The decade-old promise of $100 billion annual climate finance for vulnerable countries is still unmet. Richer country governments fall short again of their responsibilities. Greta Thunberg coined #BlahBlahBlah when referring to world leaders’ vague promises. Temperatures still rise whilst we wait for real action from our leaders.

What’s at stake?

The prime minister of Barbados emphasised that climate impacts in her country are ‘measured in lives and livelihoods’. We don’t just need world leaders to negotiate. We need to turn the tide and act fast before more lives are lost.

It’s fair to say that we have seen some progress this week. However, it falls short of justice for the countries most affected by the climate crisis – those who did the least to cause it.

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