Where next beyond COP26?

Published: Friday November 19, 2021

COP26 logoA reflection from Jo Chamberlain, National Church of England’s Environment Officer who was at COP26.

“Finding the right way to sum up what has happened at COP is tricky. Progress was made across a great many areas, and yet so many of the groups we spend time with in Glasgow are left feeling disappointed. How do we reconcile these two conflicting responses?

“The final text contains some real encouragements:

  • Coal is mentioned for the first time in a COP agreement, and this reference remained despite last minute interventions, albeit to ‘phase down’ rather than ‘phase out’,
  • There is a commitment to ending inefficient fossil fuel subsidies,
  • The Santiago Network is being activated, a mechanism for funding for Loss and Damage, and there is a commitment made to holding a process of dialogue,
  • There is an increased commitment for funding for adaptation, and
  • The Paris “rule book” has been agreed, meaning there is agreement about how to account for carbon emissions reductions, so that pledges can be assessed and countries held to account
  • And countries have agreed to come back yearly with new pledges, rather than every 5 years, until pledges are enough to keep temperature rises to 1.5C.

“But much more urgency is needed, and especially progress on

  • The gap between the change needed and what has been agreed; the Carbon Action tracker calculates that the commitment keeps us to 2.4 degrees, a long way from the all important 1.5 degrees.
  • Keeping the promises to the poorest and those least responsible for a changing climate, because the terms of any new financing mechanisms for loss and damage are still being discussed, not yet agreed, and the pledge of $100bn annually for adaptation and mitigation has not yet been reached..

“There has been disappointment that the COP was not as inclusive as it could have been and the voices of indigenous people, and other marginalised groups were not fully heard. But we cannot abandon the process, as the COP allows those most affected by climate change to directly confront the biggest emitters and speak of their experience. We saw this unfold right in the very last stages of the negotiations on Saturday afternoon, when the whole deal was threatened by some countries pushing for weaker commitments, meaning that others needed to compromise in order to ensure that some form of agreement was reached. This statement from the Maldives is one such example:

““We are putting our homes on the line while other [nations] decide how quickly they want to act. The Maldives implores you to deliver the resources we need to address the crisis in small islands in time.” “This is a matter of survival.”

“We leave Glasgow most inspired by the role of civil society in pressing for change and making change. And in particular, how people of all faiths were able to come together with a unity of purpose, despite many differences, to speak and act together on this issue. We can build on the legacy of COP, which has increased concern about climate justice in our churches and communities. We can continue to speak out and hold our leaders to account. And be encouraged in our own efforts to cut our carbon emissions, and look after creation, that these actions are all part of wider movement for change.

“It has been a privilege for Catherine and me to have been at COP26. We hope that we have kept you informed, but more importantly, to feel that you also had a stake in what was going on, and that the work you do is not in isolation, but joined up with all the other activists, environmentalists, technological experts, observers, delegates and negotiators who were there.”

So what’s next in the Diocese of Gloucester?

The Revd Dr Cate Williams, Diocesan Environmental Engagement Officer said, “In practical terms we continue to work hard towards our 2030 carbon net zero goal, noting that we are planning real carbon reductions rather than the ‘cheating’ of business as usual with offsetting, which has no real effect on climate change.  No greenwashing here!

“Local churches are continuing to work hard on Eco Church – look out for a focus on Eco Church in communications as we move into 2022.”



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