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Global Day of Action march in Glasgow 2021 - Amy Menzies/Christian Aid

What happened at COP26?

And what's next?

Published on 16 November 2021

As the COP26 summit closed on Saturday, countries most impacted by the climate crisis were left with mixed feelings.

The Glasgow Climate Pact (the final deal agreed by delegates) came as a huge disappointment, leaving us with a lot to do make climate justice a reality.

But, amongst the disappointment, we did see some progress, and there is a glimmer of hope that whilst ‘keeping 1.5C alive’ (ie keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees) is on life support, it’s certainly not dead (yet!)

The COP text also mentions fossil fuels for the first time, and -  significantly for our partners in climate-vulnerable countries - the issue of compensating the hardest hit for losses and damages caused by the climate crisis has moved up the agenda.  

 

COP26 march Glasgow November 2021

Amy Menzies/Christian Aid

What is Loss and Damage?

The climate crisis is affecting vulnerable communities around the world. People are already losing their homes and their livelihoods due to the climate crisis.

Their losses, whether that’s land, homes or livelihoods, can never be recovered, and the damages are huge. We believe that those most responsible for the climate crisis need to pay for this. 

Week one

We had high hopes as our delegation arrived in Glasgow for the ‘most inclusive COP ever’. However, the summit started with disappointment as many civil society organisations were not able to gain access, and concerns grew for how voices from the Global South would be heard.

We were also disappointed with the UK Prime Minister’s paltry contribution of an extra £1bn to climate finance, which was just a drop in the ocean for what is needed. 

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcements about new measures for the UK’s financial sector fell far short of what is required to rapidly shift this sector out of fossil fuels. 

As negotiations continued, we saw some ups and downs. On the positive side, a new anti-methane deal was struck, which could reduce warming by 0.3C by the 2040s and world leaders pledged to end deforestation by 2030. 

More than 40 countries committed to move away from coal altogether and more than 20 countries committed to stop financing fossil fuel projects overseas.

These pledges don't go far enough, but will help to signal to investors that fossil fuels are on the way out. 

Week two

The week began with Loss and Damage day. Civil society demanded action to put this permanently on the UN Climate agenda and to create a new global fund to pay for it.

The Scottish Government became the first to commit to provide funds specifically for loss and damage. We hoped this would encourage commitments from other countries, but that was not to be.  

To emphasize the economic impacts of loss and damage, we released new research that highlights how climate change could cause a 64% drop in the national wealth of the world’s most vulnerable countries.  

Protesters hold a long banner reading Faith and Belief for Climate Justice at COP26 Climate march

Amy Sheppy/Christian Aid

Faith and belief climate justice banner, London COP march

Campaigning and activism gives hope 

Throughout the 2 weeks, our staff - and partners from the global south who had managed to secure access to the official `blue zone’ of the negotiations - pressed hard for action to limit temperature rises to 1.5C, and to secure the money communities need to respond, adapt and be compensated for the impacts of the climate crisis. 

Outside the blue zone, we joined faith movements from around the world to present their demands for climate justice to delegates and leaders. 

More than 150,000 actions, including petition signatures and your prayer boats, were gathered together alongside statements from religious leaders and young people.  

Then thousands of you joined the Global Day of Action on 6th November. With an estimated 150,000 people marching through the streets of Glasgow, and just as many taking part in over 100 actions across the UK. 

In so doing, you stood in solidarity with those on the frontlines of the climate crisis and demanded action for climate justice.  

And throughout, your prayers and hopes for climate justice, captured and carried on prayer boats were displayed to decision makers, ensuring that the breadth and depth of desire for climate justice from faith communities could not be ignored.  

 

Why was taking part in the Global Day of Action important?

We asked churchgoers why taking part in the Global Day of Action is important to them. Find out what they said.

People of faith have united with activists from the Global South, feminists, youth and indigenous people to demand climate justice.

Our movement has never been stronger and this must be the legacy from Glasgow to keep hope alive.

- Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid

Prayer boat

Amy Menzies/Christian Aid

What was in the final deal? 

Here’s a quick summary of what was agreed in the Glasgow Climate Pact:

  • Mitigation (cutting emissions): The agreement instructs countries to come back in 2022 with strengthened emissions reduction commitments. Collectively the commitments of countries put us on track for 2.4C of warming. More ambitious commitments must be made next year.  
  • Finance: The pact requires rich countries to “at least double” funds for adaptation to the climate crisis. But there was no progress in getting developed countries to fulfil their promise to provide $100bn a year in climate finance overall. 
  • Loss and damage: the issue of compensating the hardest hit for losses and damages caused by the climate crisis has risen up the agenda like never before. Developing countries demanded a new loss and damage financing facility but the pact only provides for a ‘dialogue' to discuss 'arrangements'.  
  • Fossil fuels: The call to reduce the burning of coal is significant, even if the language was changed at the last minute from `phase out’ to ‘phase down’.  

What's next? 

We must not lose hope. We must continue to hold governments to account for what wasn’t done at COP26.  

Looking to next year’s COP, Joab Okanda, Christian Aid’s Africa Senior Policy Advisor from Kenya says:

'All eyes now turn to COP27 in Africa, which needs to do much more to put the priorities of the global south above those of the rich world and corporate profits. Hopefully a COP led by an African nation can better prioritise the needs of those who live and experience the devastating impacts of the climate crisis every day.'

Here in the UK, there is much work to do to hold the UK Government to account on its pledges during COP26, all starting with our Christmas-themed action in late November. Watch this space.

As we continue to act and pray for climate justice we can remember some powerful words from Greta Thunberg, to 'remember that there's not a point where everything is lost. It's never too late to do as much as we can.'

 

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