Many climate activists are frustrated by COP26 – not enough action, too much greenwashing. Activists who have observer status have been met by closed door negotiations. The voices of those on the climate change frontlines – the most affected people and areas (MAPA) are not being heard.
Is it all ‘blah blah’ or is there cause for hope?
In the first week, the following has been agreed
AGREEMENT ON FORESTS
At least at least 110 countries representing 85 per cent of the planet’s forests signed the pivotal COP26 Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, committing to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.
AGREEMENT ON COAL
77 countries pledged to end coal use. Signatories to the agreement committed to ending all investment in new coal power generation domestically and internationally.
They have also agreed to phase out coal power in the 2030s for major economies, and the 2040s for poorer nations. Several major banks agreed to stop financing the coal industry.
See; Pledge on coal
PLEDGE ON METHANE
More than 100 countries committed to reducing methane, a commitment that could prevent 0.2 degrees Celsius of global warming. The alliance’s members will seek to lower global emissions of methane — the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide — by 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. Besides the EU and the U.S., more than 103 countries have signed up so far, including major methane emitters like Nigeria and Pakistan.
See: Methane pledge
PLEDGE ON FINANCE
More than 20 countries and financial institutions pledged to halt all financing for fossil fuel development overseas and divert the spending to green energy instead from next year. The move marks a significant boost for the transition to clean fuels.
See: Finance pledge
Of course these are only pledges: according to the IEA if – and it’s a big if! all the new pledges are funded and implemented then global warming could be limited to 1.8℃ this century.
There are crucial gaps.
China, India Russia and Australia have not pledged to phase out coal. Brazil and DRC Congo have signed the declaration to end deforestation by 2030 – but the pledge is non binding – will it really be honoured? Neither China nor the African development bank have pledged to stop financing fossil fuel development.
It is far from perfect. Declarations have been made before and not honoured. There has been also been a lot of greenwashing , and not enough binding commitments to implementation.
But what is happening in the Blue zone and Green zone is only one part of the story – the other story is the thousands and thousands of people marching in Glasgow and around the world. Grandmothers and gurus, babies and bishops, socialists and swamis, priests and polar bears are on the move. From Amazonas to Zimbabwe, the giant has been woken. We will not stop now. The presence of indigenous people and the small island states, despite the incredible challenges of being there – has been strongly felt , and the faith communities were powerful in their presence.
The challenge facing civil society and faith communities now is to make sure that pledges are honoured, that goals are raised, that deadlines are shortened, in our own countries and internationally.
In the words of Jim Wallis a pastor from Washington DC – you can always spot the politicians – they are the ones walking around with wet fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
Our job is to change the wind.
Rev Rachel Mash
Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Photo credit – Interfaith Scotland