COP26 was a failure, but we must never give up.

COP26, the most important meeting in human history, has failed abysmally to slash emissions as climate science demands. Neither did it provide the countries on the front line, who have contributed least to emissions, with the finance they need to fund climate adaptation and start to repair the massive damage they have experienced as a direct result of rich countries emissions. At one point funding “loss and damage” was on the table, but the US, UK and EU  watered it down to “hold a workshop”. The plan to phase out coal was watered down to “phase down coal” (whatever that means) on the insistence of China and India. The final agreement is here.

200 scientists and academics have written an open letter, calling COP a failure and demanding a green revolution. 

Anita Sonia, an activist from Kenya tweeted “ I will go back to my country where millions of people are facing negative effects of climate change. I’ll tell them that I went to COP26 and requested leaders to open their hearts but none of them felt their pain.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland tweeted “It is nothing less than a scandal. Just saying the words 1.5 degrees is meaningless if there is nothing in COP26 agreement to deliver it. 

History will remember it as a betrayal of the global South – abandoned to the crisis with no money for transition, adaptation or loss and damage.

Prof Bill McGuire wrote in the Ecologist, “ For there to be any possibility of keeping the global average temperature rise – since pre-industrial times – to below the 1.5° guardrail, greenhouse gas emissions needed to fall by 45 per cent by 2030. Instead, they were on a path to climb 16 per cent by that date.”

Among the hundreds of banners and placards at last Saturday’s massive Climate Justice demonstration in Sheffield, this is the one that spoke most to me. “Don’t give up”. Having witnessed the failure of COP26 it is tempting to throw in the towel, become oblivious to the bad news and enjoy the rest of the time we have on earth as best we can. 

But that would be shirking our responsibilities. 

George Monbiot has other ideas. Talking on the Frankie Boyle show, he said “ When they tell you we are just the Government there is nothing we can do, that’s bull****. There is no economic barrier standing in the way. There is no technological barrier standing in the way. The only thing that stops them from doing what they need to do is the lack of political will. And so we have to get together in our millions to demand that they show that political will and defend our life support system.” 

Dr Aaron Thierry a climate scientist who founded Extinction Rebellion in Sheffield, was arrested taking part in a peaceful act of civil disobedience with Scientist Rebellion at COP 26. He said

“It’s clear that the COP process has failed: all we have to show for it are three decades of rising emissions. The science is clear. We need to halt all further fossil fuel investments and exploration, today! Yet governments continue to increase production, all their fine words and promises are hollow; we can see by their actions that they have no intention of doing what is required to prevent catastrophe. Rather than wait for our leaders to continue to fail us, we must rise up and take to the streets. As scientists who fully comprehend what is at stake, we are standing in solidarity with the youth and frontline communities and taking a stand.”

Activists laid down in the street outside the entrance to the COP26 Blue Zone to remind delegates and governments of the millions who have already died due to the failure of previous COPs and the further deaths that the failure of COP26 is locking in. Each shrouded body held a death certificate, reminding passers-by of the multiple hazards to human life that result from climate breakdown.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. The climate emergency hits groups who are already poor the hardest – including indigenous peoples and many of those living in the Global South – people who have had the least opportunity to make their voices heard as part of the COP process. The message of protestors on Glasgow’s streets has been clear: justice to all peoples must lie at the heart of climate solutions. However, it seems the fossil fuel lobbyists, who had a bigger delegation than any country, were more successful at influencing world leaders. 

We must not give up. We must get active. Join an environmental group, join us on the streets and demand politicians and corporations take action to stop the destruction of our life support system. We need to build the biggest mass movement in history, uniting families, Trade Unions, environmental groups, justice groups, youth, OAP’s, everybody, to get the change we need. 

Wanting to survive is not radical. Knowingly continuing with business as usual is to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. 

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