In 1981 at the birth of my second child I realised that the environment, on which we all depend was unsustainable and it was my personal responsibility to do something to preserve it so my children had a future… I have now been a green activist for 40 years and much of that time I have been focussed on the threat of climate change. I have done this through direct civil disobedience as in 2006, 2007 and 2007 when I took part in the first climate camps or now where I am an active member of Extincti0on Rebellion As an educationalist I have always striven to find ways to communicate with the public about climate change using as many mediums as I can such as music, puppet shows, creating nature reserves and writing books.. This my current book which took 5 years to research and write but embodies my 40 years as a green activist. You find the title and where to buy it in the chat…
I went to Glasgow as a protestor with Extinction Rebellion to try and influence the outcome of the negotiations and at the very least have my voice heard. Although nearly 40,000 delegates attended with COVID restrictions and the shear costs of attending I heard some poorer nation states deeply affected by climate change did not attend. So was it a true representation of U.N. members? Was it an example of democratic access to decision making?
Some panellists from poorer countries said there was a recognisable strategy of larger nations controlling the climate narrative by excluding the countries and communities bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. For example, Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, revealed that in the 12 hours before the panel, he and the Climate Vulnerable Forum were bumped from their scheduled slot for a news conference and replaced by the United States and China.
The other big problem is that it was not seriously representative because China’s. leader Dung Shao Ping did not feel it was worthy of attending. This seemed a political decision as a result of us upsetting them over Hong Kong, deploying nuclear subs in the South Pacific , not using Huawei in our telecommunications and not allowing them entrance into the nuclear power sector. A Chinese delegation did contribute later on. To me this is a crazy decision as my book explains in the section on future scenarios if targets of reductions are not met China’s economic heart in Shanghai and other areas on the coast will be destroyed by sea level rise. In addition to this the “rice bowl” of the North China Plain, which requires massive transfers of water from southern China, will be prone to long droughts and crop losses resulting in mass migration of up to 10 million people. This will result in mass civil unrest and the fall of Communist Party.
Putin did not show up from Russia, another country shooting itself in the foot. As my book shows if emission targets are not met future scenarios indicate droughts and wild fires will be become more frequent in occurrence in Russia resulting in mass civil disorder and the fall of the Putin regime.
Morrison from Australia turned up but did not co-operate over limiting coal. Again my book shows that not reaching the required 1.5 degree target in future scenarios agricultural production in Australia will become more compromised and could even stop by the 2080’s.
The fossil fuel industry was successful in manipulating the outcome of the conference in their favour. At least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists, affiliated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants, were granted access to COP 26, flooding the Glasgow conference with corporate influence. No wonder there was no commitment to limit the current $600 billion a year spent on fossil fuel subsidies. The U.K. is soon to open the Cambo oilfield in the North Sea thought to contain 800 million barrels of oil and no doubt will offer subsides to foreign companies so that they can make a profit at our expense.
This is why I joined XR protestors outside the HQ of JP Morgan the bank that has invested $316 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris agreement. We also marched up to the entrance to the conference. There were other protests outside the Bank of Scotland.
I met so many people from the poorer countries of the south who saw rich countries had abdicated financial responsibility for their historic and continued emissions, betraying those countries which have done least to cause the crisis but face the greatest consequences. I listened to many speeches from indigenous people and citizens from the global south who stood on podiums at the gates to the conference and reiterated this theme. Developing countries already faced $70 billion a year costs of climate adaptation alone, and this is expected to rise to $140-300 billion by 2030. Richer countries were already $20 billion short from promises made at the Paris agreement. One of the key demands put forward at COP26 by the G77 and China (a global majority bloc which their negotiators pointed out covered 6 of every 7 people on earth) was for a new financing facility to compensate for loss and damage. There was opposition from the U.S. and no immediate agreed statement of the way forward on this. There was indeed no commitment at COP26 to deliver $100bn a year before 2023.
Random things happened near the gates of the conference and I suddenly was asked to comment by a camera crew from Liberia who were streaming what I said to Liberia. I said I felt moral shame that my country was not compensating them for the damage caused to them by our emissions. I told a delegate from the Cameroon the same. The Climate Injustice stemming from moral bankruptcy was taken up by Faith groups who held an Earth Vigil at the Gates of the conference. As a Buddhist I was honoured to join in their meditation.
SUCCESSES OF THE CONFERENCE
- METHANE More than 100 countries signed on to the Global Methane Pledge, which was led jointly by the US and the EU and officially launched at COP26. Signatories pledged their support for reducing methane emissions by 30% over 2020 levels by the end of the decade.
- Deforestation pledges
Two major announcements concerning deforestation were made during the world leader’s summit, which took place at the beginning of COP26.
The first, The Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use was signed by 100 countries representing 85% of the globe’s forested land, including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which house the largest tracts of tropical forests. It pledges to end or reduce deforestation by 2030; the pledge is backed by over $18 billion in funding, including $1.7 billion dedicated to support indigenous peoples.
The second, a new Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Statement, was jointly led by the UK and Indonesia and aims to support sustainable trade between commodity-producing and -consuming countries.
In another development Brazil agreed to end deforestation by 2028.
- Ending international funding for fossil fuel development: A statement committing countries and institutions to halt all financing for fossil fuel development overseas and divert the spending to green energy was signed by the UK, US, Canada and Germany, along with institutions such as the European Investment Bank and East African Development Bank. Other countries such as Germany, Spain and the Netherlands also signed up later. Before COP26 Japan and South Korea, followed by China, already pledged to end funding for coal overseas. Fossil fuels were mentioned for the first time in any COP.
- India was fully involved in conference and made a commitment to go zero carbon by 2070.
- Although there was no definitive statement there were face to face discussions between the USA and China about future collaboration on climate change. They had already shown this by the methane agreement.
FAILURES OF THE CONFERENCE
- Not enough climate Scientists were invited as delegates. On my first day there I met a group of Climate Scientists who had been so frustrated that they were not listened to the previous day had closed a bridge by chaining themselves to it to get media attention for their message. One Australian scientist was so interested in the moral questions outlined in my book he bought a copy.
- There was no limitation given on fossil fuel companies to stop finding more sources or burn more fossil fuels.
- A new analysis by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), presented at COP26, showed a 17% increase in food-related emissions since 1990. The study found that 21% of global CO2 emissions, 53% of global methane emissions and 78% of global nitrous oxide. But the farming system as a cause of climate change, particularly the methane emissions from meat production was not acted on…
- Nature-based solutions are “temporary removals” of carbon and “cannot compensate” for a failure to reduce fossil fuel emissions. But critics of the concept said that countries are relying too heavily on tree-planting and other fixes in lieu of reducing emissions. Text from these discussions were cut from COP 26.
- Deforestation pledges need to be acted upon now. One delegate said ““There’s a very good reason Bolsonaro felt comfortable signing on to this new deal. It allows another decade of forest destruction and isn’t binding.” I joined protests by XR near the gates of the conference on this issue.
- Some major emitters’ Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Russia had 2030 targets which were too weak. . Looking back to another recent report, Climate Analytics shows that G20 countries can limit temperature rise to 1.7°C by aligning their 2030 targets with the Paris target, then achieving net-zero by mid-century. Delegates in Glasgow agreed that countries should come back next year and submit stronger 2030 targets to help close the gap to 1.5°C, as well as put forward long-term climate strategies, aiming for a just transition to net-zero around mid-century. Climate Action Tracker’s useful analysis finds that even with all new pledges for 2030, we will still emit roughly twice as much in 2030 as required for 1.5C. They estimate if all current pledges for emissions cuts by 2030 are met, this gives only a 50% chance of staying below 2.4C.
- There was no focus on the moral, ethical and spiritual responsibility of richer countries to prevent mass deaths from climate change. This dimension of the debate is fully explored in my book which refers to the spiritual teachings of 11 spiritual traditions in relation to climate change. At a march in Glasgow attended by 100,000 people Dr. Neddy Astudillo of Green Faiths International summed it up like this “We will not stop until we have a world governed by compassion, love, and justice.”
THE WAY AHEAD
David King a former Government Chief Science advisor has said that we only have 3 years to start to reduce carbon in a meaningful way. So we cannot wait for the next election which will be too late. Xr have said that if only 3% of the population practise civil disobedience and disrupt the economy then change will happen. So I am in favour of getting more and more people to join XR to make this happen and so this is where I will put my energy. I will push for a Citizens Assembly to be set up through the process of sortition to advise the government on how to act on the Climate Emergency.