Verdicts on COP26

IssueDecember 2021 - January 2022
Feature by Various

Saleemul Huq, Bangladesh:

As far as I’m concerned, it is a failure. Absolute failure.... It’s a death sentence for the poorest people on the planet.

And not only that, the polluters are saying: ‘To hell with you, we don’t care, we’re not going to give you a penny.’

… We’re not giving up, but we are describing this COP as an abject failure because it hasn’t been able to rise to the occasion of dealing with loss and damage.

It doesn’t matter what else they do. That was our issue. Poor countries, the vulnerable countries, came here for that. And they’ve been slapped in the face.’

Saleemul Huq, climate negotiator for Bangladesh at COP26, speaking to the press in Glasgow on 13 November


Saeve Paeniu, Tuvalu:

We had very high hopes, coming to Glasgow. We had a very high level of anticipation and optimism that ‘Glasgow will deliver action’.

We are the frontline of climate change impacts.

Tuvalu land is fast disappearing.

Tuvalu is literally sinking and we are here to advocate for ambitious action and action needs to be taken now.

So, over the last couple of weeks, we are a bit saddened and disappointed that that level of anticipation and optimism, advocated for by the G20 world leaders when they spoke at the summit here in Glasgow, had not been translated into concrete actions.

Saeve Paeniu, Tuvalu minister for finance and climate change, Channel 4 News, 12 November


Aminath Shauna, Maldives:

What is balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time. For some, loss and damage may be the beginning of conversation and dialogue, but for us this is a matter of survival.

“We have 98 months to halve global emissions. The difference between 1.5º and 2º is a death sentence for us.”

So while we recognise the foundations that this outcome provides, it does not bring hope to our hearts, but serves as yet another conversation where we put our homes on the line – while those who have other options decide how quickly they want to act to save those who don’t.

We have heard that the technology is available. We know trillions are spent on fossil fuels. So we know that this is not about the lack of either of them.

We have 98 months to halve global emissions. The difference between 1.5º and 2º is a death sentence for us.

Aminath Shauna, Maldives minister of environment, climate change & technology, at COP26, 12 November.


Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa:

The needs of the world’s vulnerable people have been sacrificed on the altar of the rich world’s selfishness.

The outcome here reflects a COP held in the rich world and the outcome contains the priorities of the rich world.

Not only did developed countries fail to deliver the long promised $100 billion of climate finance to poorer countries, they have also failed to recognise the urgency of delivering this financial support. They claim to want urgency on emissions reductions, yet they continue to expand fossil fuel production within their own borders.

On loss and damage, it feels bad that we have nothing to show for the hard work the vulnerables put in, but loss and damage is now up the political agenda in a way it was never before and the only way out is for it to be eventually delivered.

We are leaving empty-handed but morally stronger and hopeful that we can sustain the momentum in the coming year to deliver meaningful support which will allow the vulnerables to deal with the irreversible impacts of climate change created by the polluting world who are failing to take responsibility.

Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a Kenya-based climate and energy thinktank, on Twitter, 13 November


It Takes Roots:

The Glasgow Climate Pact is shameful....

...‘solutions’ such as carbon trading, carbon capture and storage, and market-based mechanisms sold at COP26 are upheld in the final decision document.

These are performative actions that allow for the status quo of continued accelerating climate crisis, in which no peoples or nations will be spared....

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR), including carbon capture and storage, was promoted throughout COP26 as a panacea to the climate crisis the fossil fuel industry has created. Technological CDR is a costly, unproven, and a dangerous techno-fix that should not be rolled out.

We cannot condone this inadequate text.

The insistence on working toward Net Zero targets framing this decision, as opposed to truly achieving zero emissions with real solutions, is a cover-up for inaction and business-as-usual.

This mathematical sleight-of-hand allows polluters to pretend they can offset and balance the harm they continue to emit into the atmosphere with emissions offsets. This will allow continued pollution in the most harmed communities. These proposals are far afield from the only means that will truly lower emissions: ending the extraction and use of fossil fuels....

We laud the naming in the Glasgow decision of the Just Transitions needed to get economies off fossil fuels, but we caution that a real Just Transition must be built from the bottom up, with inclusion of the communities most impacted by transition.

This term must not be co-opted or rendered meaningless by vague commitments.

Despite this historic inclusion of fossil fuels phase-out and a Just Transition in a COP26 agreement, this document is not enough for frontline communities.

The agreement has made the bare minimum incremental progress on loss and damage for countries and communities impacted by climate chaos.... the incremental commitments made at COP26 sacrifice the most vulnerable communities, including the most vulnerable within the US and in the Global South.

Additionally, this document does not endorse or strengthen the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities.

This is a gross negligence when Indigenous communities are at the frontlines of fossil fuel and mineral extraction, and the forefront of regenerative ecological practices rooted in Indigenous cosmology.

This agreement fails to adequately protect the self-determination of Indigenous communities who care for the lands, water, biodiversity, and air on which we all depend.

What we need are global agreements that strengthen a Just Transition to new, living economic and energy models that keep fossil fuels in the ground and eliminate emissions at source at the pace needed to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5°C.

These solutions must draw upon the wisdom and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and the experiences, expertise, and leadership of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Pacific Islander, poor, and marginalised peoples on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

Real solutions that advance climate justice must invest in community-controlled place-based solutions that leave no one behind and discontinue the harmful relegation of communities as sacrifice zones.

In the face of violent climate chaos perpetrated by colonialist economic and political fossil fuel regimes, we demand greater ambition to end fossil fuels, real emissions reductions at the source, protections of the rights of people and Mother Earth, and real solutions now.

Part of a statement from the ‘It Takes Roots’ alliance, 13 November. It Takes Roots took a US frontline delegation of over 60 people from communities most impacted by the climate crisis to COP26, from the US-based Climate Justice Alliance, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, Just Transition Alliance and Central Florida Jobs with Justice.


War on Want:

I’ve just got home after two weeks in Glasgow. I left the COP26 climate summit yesterday filled with anger and dismay at the utter betrayal of people and our planet.

Hollow words from rich Global North governments have essentially given big business a licence to continue polluting, putting the world on course for catastrophic global heating above 1.5º C. Attempts by the UK government to paint the COP26 talks as anything but a failure are pure greenwashing.

At this moment, where world leaders have failed us, we must continue to call loudly for climate justice; for a Global Green New Deal for people and planet.

Yet as well as anger, I was also filled with incredible hope. And that hope comes from being part of War on Want, alongside you, alongside our partners all around the world.

Together, we have built the biggest coalition for climate justice that the UK has ever seen, the COP26 Coalition; with hundreds of thousands taking action around the world, including over 150,000 of you taking to the streets of Glasgow....

Now we must work even harder to bring hope to the millions globally who are already being sacrificed in the name of profit.

Asad Rehman, director, War on Want (from a email to supporters).


Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice:

Year after year, we have tried to intervene as these negotiations drift further away from their purpose.

The process, stacked as it is in favour of the powerful, has not led to binding commitments to keep temperatures below 1.5º C and the redistribution of resources to ensure a Just Transition, but instead to flexible and voluntary ‘contributions’ misaligned with science and divorced from justice....

There may be some language in some texts that have been the smallest of victories but 26 consecutive COPs have in practice ignored the need to pay the outrageous historical debt owed to the global south by the global north.

COP26 marks the zenith of a new era in the sorry saga of international climate politics, marked by cynicism, corporate capture and state complicity in the expansion of the death machinery of fossil fuels that is a death sentence for millions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities across the global south that already are living the worst impacts of climate change.

The age of climate denial is over; the era of climate colonialism is upon us....

Instead of a multilateral agreement that puts forward a clear path to address the climate crisis, we are left with a document that takes us further down the path of climate injustice.

Therefore, we, the undersigned global civil society organisations and social movements demand:

No more ‘net zero’ lies and empty promises. We demand pathways that urgently and justly deploy real, people-centered solutions to get us to Real Zero by 2030 in developed countries and by 2050 in developing countries.

No more false solutions such as carbon markets and geoengineering which waste time, displace communities, and destroy ecosystems for the profit of polluters and allow wealthy countries to escape their responsibility.

"The age of climate denial is over; the era of climate colonialism is upon us."

Real solutions to really address the climate crisis must be on the basis and in benefit of local and indigenous communities and grassroots organizations avoiding large scale, extractivist and corporate control projects.

Polluting governments and corporations must pay for the damage they cause. The industries that have fuelled the climate crisis, funded climate denial, and blocked action for decades must be held liable. This means ensuring that they are held criminally and financially responsible, and that they are made to end their abusive practices.

Rapid and equitable phase out of fossil fuel production and consumption through a Just Transition, with each country committing to and delivering on their fair shares of climate action based on historical and continuing responsibilities to benefit local and historically-displaced grassroots communities. Clear targets and timetables including for the immediate and near-term period to reach global real zero by 2050.

Urgent delivery of climate finance – way beyond the unfulfilled $100 billion per year target, that is sufficient and responsive to the actual climate needs of people and local communities in the Global South. Climate finance should be public, non-debt creating, and its delivery must follow an inclusive process that will ensure that the contributions are based on equity and fair-shares, and without conditions. Climate finance must include coverage of loss and damage. A separate dedicated finance facility must be set up to meet this obligation.

Addressing climate change requires honouring these demands, and profound social transformation in all countries and at all levels – local, national, and global.

This will not happen without massive mobilisation of people everywhere, south and north. Join us as we step up our efforts to build and exercise the power of collective action, in different forms at various fronts and arenas, in different levels – local, national and global – at a scale never seen before.

Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice.


Global Justice Now:

The summit concluded late on Saturday with an agreement that leaves the 1.5º target for limiting global temperature rise on life support....

I want to share three of our most important takeaways from the last fortnight.

1) The rich world has tried to divert attention from its failure to tackle a climate crisis which they created.

All fossil fuels need phasing out as soon as possible to deal with climate change – indeed, working out a plan to keep fossil fuels in the ground should be the main aim of COP.

Yet the agreement drafted by the UK presidency made no mention of phasing out oil and gas, only coal. This failure to confront the fossil fuel industry and expose only those countries still dependent on coal was divisive and caused the final argument that overshadowed the signing of the deal....

2) The rich world has once again failed to pay up for the consequences of its historic emissions.

It was 1992 when rich industrialised countries originally pledged to cut their emissions first and fastest, and pay money to the global south to help it transition to clean energy without sacrificing its people.

“An increased climate finance target and a new fund to compensate countries for ‘loss and damage’ were the two main Global South demands.”

Yet for more than two decades they have been trying to wriggle out of this, delaying action on cutting emissions and not paying up on climate finance, in order that western fossil fuel corporations can continue profiting.

The pledge to meet the flawed and inadequate $100 billion per year target by 2023 is thin gruel for communities on the frontline of climate change.

An increased climate finance target post-2025 and a new fund to compensate countries for the irreversible ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change were the two main global south demands at COP26.

Yet there was no new target on climate finance and, while the Glasgow agreement acknowledges the concept of loss and damage for the first time, it stops there.

Given what the rich world has spent dealing with COVID-19, or indeed what a small handful of countries spend on their carbon-intensive militaries, the demands of island and coastal communities for adequate finance is perfectly reasonable. But, as their communities are drowning, the rich world has simply averted its eyes.

3) The climate justice movement has changed politics since Paris. Now we need to force countries like our own to act....

I am optimistic. The growth of the climate justice movement in recent months and years is incredible.... The progress we’ve made has been won by you. So don’t give up. Let’s bank the victories and let’s keep fighting for real climate justice.

Nick Dearden, director, Global Justice Now (from an email to supporters).