Judged on the inadequacy of the outcome of COP 26, Thursday’s meeting in Scotland’s largest city may go down as a missed opportunity, but that failure should be viewed in the context of an unprecedented trajectory.
The Paris agreement to reduce climate pollution was reached just two years ago, in the midst of rising fossil fuel prices, the onset of the shale revolution, and the final engagement of nearly 200 countries across six weeks of talks in Paris.
In an unprecedented fashion, COP 26 staged the installation of four Coalitions, representing 350.org, UNEP, WWF Scotland, and Friends of the Earth Scotland. The text of the agreement placed even more responsibility on nations to fulfil it.
The COP conference struck the momentous conclusion that an average global temperature of no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would be “very, very dangerous”.
With this recognition came binding commitments to review and ratchet up ambition.
More specifically, the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C is now set to be achieved by 2030.
The urgency of the set target was stressed by the President of the General Assembly, which hosted the conference.
Friday’s results in Glasgow are that, despite actions already made, carbon emissions increased on average in 2018, rising 0.8% compared to the preceding year.
So while the pressure for further action is mounting, it is encouraging to see the UN face up to criticism that they have not done enough to deliver the 1.5°C goal.
But, I am also certain that we can do better. The first thing we need to do is find ways to agree on our shared vision of climate justice for all.
In particular, what is necessary is a fair, robust, and well-funded climate justice framework, which will provide the glue which will hold nations together in the creation of a more sustainable future.
This approach recognises the common humanity that can be brought to bear upon the climate crisis. It recognises that we are all part of the same problem – a problem that includes the unprecedented damage which extreme weather and melting glaciers is inflicting on some of the most vulnerable in our global community.
No other social issue touches everyone the same way. When we commit to climate justice, we commit to ensuring that all people and communities have a stake in improving and protecting the future they share, no matter where they are from, or where they come from on the planet.
COP 26 was a triumph for the people of Scotland, and the many collaborative coalitions represented at the conference which demonstrated how meaningful collaboration can bring about climate solutions.
The success of the climate change movement across the UK in bringing together regional and national coalitions to prepare for COP and show solidarity with one another in the run up to the conference was inspirational and necessary.
Our actions at the conference also demonstrate the unbreakable bonds between people and our common humanity. This ability to build support for the global mission of our movement is one of the great achievements of the climate movement.
The number of individuals across Europe who have willingly applied themselves to volunteer their time and support for the climate movement is only the tip of the iceberg of the global movement being formed, and has already brought some great opportunities for partnerships and expansion.
The COP process has always demonstrated that progress can be made through challenge and debate. I have no doubt that we will continue to be stronger in our political engagement and understanding of what is needed to achieve our shared ambition to keep global warming below 1.5°C, while simultaneously protecting our cities, and defending our natural world from the ravages of climate change.
* Friends of the Earth Scotland is one of a number of environmental charities involved in a range of projects and forums across Scotland which are committed to the strong public ownership of Scotland’s precious and very fragile natural environment. Friends of the Earth Scotland now has over 8,000 members from across Scotland.