The Third Generation Project Statement on the Proceedings and Outcomes of COP26

This past weekend, the world watched as the 26th Congress of Parties in Glasgow fell short of producing a meaningful pact that would update the Paris Agreement, take a decisive step away from fossil fuel dependency, and assist countries who are bearing the brunt of a crisis they did not cause.

We at the Third Generation Project are deeply disappointed by COP26 – both in its outcomes and its proceedings. Our team attended both the Blue and Green Zone and witnessed three key themes of climate injustice that will continue resulting in future ineffective pacts if these are not actively remedied.

1. Lack of Accountability by Historically Richer Nations

Most notably, at the last minute, the only radical action point of the Glasgow Pact – that the world would begin to ‘phase out’ coal – was defused to simply ‘phasing down’. The International Energy Agency has said that 40% of the world’s 8,500 coal-fired power plants must be closed by 2030 to stay within the 1.5 Celsius limit agreed upon at COP21 in Paris. While many have pointed fingers towards China and India for this move, richer countries across the board have continued to either fall short of or possess drastically inadequate nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Australia and the United States, as high consumers of coal, have yet to pledge any plan to phase out. All of the major economies of the world – not just a few – are guilty of historical and current climate inaction. Historically richer governments, mostly in Europe and North America, must hold themselves accountable for producing over 50% of cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions.

2. The Need for Climate Reparations Now

The outcome of COP26 has left those countries who are emitting the least and experiencing the worst, vulnerable in the days and years to come. Richer countries have yet to deliver the 100 billion USD promised in 2009 to aid poorer countries in coping with the loss and damage resulting from climate change. As Gamal Hassan, the Somali Minister for Planning, Investment, and Economic Development noted ‘the world’s 20 richest economies have provided around one-tenth of one per cent of their GDP in support. Far short of what was promised a decade ago, and not even close to what is necessary’. With frontline countries already devoting up to a tenth of their national GDP to climate adaptation, there must be equitable financing and debt forgiveness from richer and high emitting countries. Without radical financial aid, the current status quo in many ways perpetuates and is bringing about new colonial relationships in the climate crisis era. ‘Climate reparations’ therefore must replace the language and sentiment of ‘loss and damage’ to help build better relationships of accountability between richer and poorer states.

3. Fair and Equitable Representation at Future COPs

The proceedings of COP26 saw those experiencing the worst of the climate crisis – from small island states to Indigenous peoples – cut out from negotiations and sidelined. Samoan negotiator Galumalemana Anne Rasmussen noted ‘The Alliance of Small Island States…really pushed hard, everyone engaged, but unfortunately it is always up to the developed and rich to determine the fate and direction of these pledges and outcomes’. Meanwhile many Indigenous representatives, coming from communities who have consistently fought with their lives for a more ecologically sustainable global economy around the world, were confined to a single observer desk in the negotiations room. The team at the Third Generation Project was shocked to see not only the active exclusion and tokenisation of Indigenous peoples at COP26 but was ultimately appalled at the lack of accessibility for so many to attend the conference. Future COPs must make a concerted effort to prioritise and support the participation of community-based representatives from Global South and Indigenous communities.

To end, in reflecting on the effectiveness of COP26, we echo the sentiment of Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados who stated in the wake of COP26:

“I ask to you: what must we say to our people, living on the frontline in the Caribbean, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Pacific, when both ambition and, regrettably, some of the needed faces at Glasgow, are not present? What excuse should we give for the failure?”