COP 26 –

On this last day of COP26, I am reflecting on our past relationship with Climate Change and trying to unpick the politics from the reporting to find a thread of hope.

I first heard of Climate Change from Bob Edwards, when I worked with him at Greenpeace UK, in the 1990’s. He always knew the perspective, and got it right again. He knew while we were fighting plastics or pollution in India, the elephant in the room was climate change. Back in 1978 he went to the Kiribati islands in the South Pacific and took these photographs of a way of life that was endangered then, due to rising sea levels.

Aerial view of traditional fish traps, Tarawa, Kiribati, South Pacific.

Is it the beginning of the end for coal? I understand it is the first COP that coal and gas are discussed! Of course, the tantrum of China and India ‘watering down’ the phasing out of coal hits the headlines, the war is so much more interesting than the peace. Both countries are both heavily dependent on coal power, and refused the wording phasing out’, and settled for phase down.

The key agreements are here

The India China distraction best summarised here

As the ever-acute David Roberts put it: “Whether and how fast India phases out coalhas nothing at all to do with what its diplomat says in Glasgow and everything to do with domestic Indian politics, which have their own logic and are only faintly affected by international politics.” Guardian

1.5 alive

The argument at Glasgow was firmly won in favour of 1.5C – in itself an achievement for the UK hosts, and much better for the planet. Achieving the 1.5ºC limit was always understood to require cuts in emissions far larger than those set forth in the promised emissions reductions—“nationally determined contributions”, or NDCs—tabled by the nations assembled in Paris in 2015

Net Zero

Pledges to go to “net-zero” emissions—meaning countries emit no more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than they remove from it – are pie in the sky for now

Climate Finance to level up

In 2009 rich countries promised to mobilise $100bn of climate finance each year for poor countries by 2020. By 2019 the annual flow had only reached $80bn,The West, the quite reasonable argument went, had grown wealthy by burning fossil fuels which are harming the planet. That handed it a peculiar responsibility, and gave poor countries that had not been responsible for the original damage a moral claim to assistance. The Glasgow pact did not deliver all this. Plans for a loss-and-damage fund were stymied by rich countries;

New models of financing

Glasgow also tested new models for financing decarbonisation in poor countries. For instance, America, Britain, EU, France and Germany agreed to mobilise a pot of $8.5bn over the next three to five years for South Africa. In exchange South Africa has agreed to decarbonise its coal-dependent power sector while protecting the livelihoods of the 100,000 or so people who work in the industry. Progress on this approach will be monitored over the next year. If the results are promising, proponents hope it could be a template for other countries.

coalitions of the willing

These are groups of countries, companies and cities which band together and come up with their own climate targets based on action in particular sectors. Notable deals announced in Glasgow by these groupings included one on phasing out coal power, one on reducing methane emissions, one on greening the financial-services industry and one on ending deforestation. In every case some big countries and companies were involved. That gave the impression that COP26 was getting many things done. But in every case some big nations were missing—the coal pledge, for instance, did not include the world’s five biggest consumers of the stuff. Nor do these multilateral processes necessarily have much to offer by way of accountability

A good summary from the economist.

Climate Tracker

Mombiot . The big shift in the past year is the emergence of a truly global climate movement, and the sense that its leadership is now coming from the Global South. This is as it should be: poor nations are hit hardest by climate breakdown and their voices have for too long been unheard.

At the heart of the global movement is the notion of climate justice. This means, among other things, that the remaining carbon budget is distributed fairly, that polluting nations pay compensation for loss and damage, and that the rich no longer live at the expense of the poor

Green Party

Responding to the final COP26 text, co-leader Adrian Ramsay said the agreement fails to get us on track to 1.5C and is woefully short on providing support to the Global South, protecting future generations, or safeguarding the natural world. He said:

‘This agreement has failed to get us on track to 1.5C, the primary aim of this summit, and is woefully short on providing support to the Global South, protecting future generations or safeguarding the natural world. While the deal for the first time acknowledges the central role of fossil fuels as causing the climate crisis, and the loss and damage agenda is finally being taken seriously, like so many others who have campaigned so long for climate justice, we are left with a sense of grief and anxiety about what has been agreed overall. Our five tests were designed to highlight the absolute essentials we needed to see from this agreement and unfortunately they have simply not been delivered: every test has been failed.’

Ramsay went on to say: ‘Although this is a colossal disappointment and a wasted opportunity, we’re adamant that the legacy of this COP doesn’t need to be failure. This generation of politicians is failing us, but we are determined that the amazing energy shown by youth activists, indigenous people and citizens from around the world will not be betrayed. As Greens we have been at the forefront of the struggle for climate justice for decades, and we will continue to be the political voice in that struggle as it continues’.

Natalie Bennett agreed and wrote in The Independent that ‘it’s not too late to rescue the conference’s legacy’.

Just as the final agreement was about to be released, Caroline Lucas argued that the sense of urgency is lacking from the summit’s text, saying that ‘lives are on the line right now’.

As the UK retains the COP presidency for the next year, co-leader Adrian Ramsay called on the government to show global leadership by convening a “climate crisis cabinet” to immediately push through significant climate action here in the UK.

In the Prime Minister’s statement to parliament, he tried to spin COP26 as a success. He talks big words, but is not prepared to commit to the action needed to tackle the climate crisis. Caroline Lucas challenged him. Read their exchange here.

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