The outcome of Cop26 falls far short of what is necessary to tackle the climate crisis, but countries who are climate leaders must show the way forward, “and let history judge the laggards”, according to Friends of the Earth Ireland (FoE).
Irish climate NGOs and overseas aid organisations expressed disappointment about the outcome of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, though some welcomed gains on climate finance for poorer countries and increased funding for “adaptation” to help make climate-vulnerable states more resilient in face of inevitable impacts from global warming.
“Glasgow was a staging post not a finishing line,” said FoE director Oisín Coghlan. He said what was clear now was that formal negotiations through this UN process “may never produce an outcome that reflects the urgency of the science and the imperative of justice. Not when the final text is effectively subject to a veto from any polluting country with a brass neck”.
Collective agreement is no longer the limit on global action it once was, Mr Coghlan said. “While some countries are still dragging their heels others are beginning to pick up the pace. Equally, while fossil fuel companies are lobbying for the path of delay and destruction others are grasping the business opportunities of the race to zero.”
The global climate movement was growing in strength and diversity, and this would continue in an effort to secure a better response by governments, he said.
“We may not yet have succeeded in forging the international agreement we want but increasingly we can hold our national governments to the standards required by the 1.5-degree goal in the Paris agreement.
“The two-steps forward, one-step back nature of the annual climate talks is deeply frustrating but we must pocket any modest gains from Glasgow – the first mention of phasing out of fossil fuels and the renewed commitment to adaptation finance for example – and ratchet up our demands for the next time,” he added.
“Collectively our governments have not met the moment but our international movement emerges from Glasgow stronger than ever. We return home to push our national governments harder than ever to act in line with science and equity.”
Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders group of international figures founded by Nelson Mandela, pushed repeatedly for greater ambition during the two-week long negotiations. She said it had made some progress, “but nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster. While millions around the world are already in crisis, not enough leaders were in crisis mode. People will see this as a historically shameful dereliction of duty”.
Climate activist Dr Lorna Gold, chairwoman of the Laudato Si Movement, said the outcome was a huge disappointment. “The only thing worse than this would have been no outcome. That would have spelt disaster. The outcome shows that the majority of leaders still do not yet fully accept the reality of the situation.”
Last-minute watering down of critical language on phasing out coal deepened mistrust and did bode well for the road ahead, she added. “That said, this Cop was not just about the official outcome. Many key initiatives have been signed – including the agreement on methane and Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, to which Ireland signed up.”
On the fringes, however, critical discussions were held on financial realignment, including value-based organisations rapidly shifting financial assets into clean energy and adaptation, she noted. “The awakening of global finance is good news. Cop26 has not been a disaster – but not a success either. Some would call it a ‘compromise’ – a ‘balanced outcome’. Sadly, a rapidly changing climate does not react to such human excuses.”
The failure of global leaders to include “loss and damage” financing in the final agreement is “deeply disappointing” and a “missed opportunity” by the powerful nations who have contributed most to climate change, according to Trócaire.
The overseas development agency said the deal failed to show solidarity in supporting shattered communities recover and rebuild after climate disasters.
Trócaire head of policy and advocacy Siobhán Curran, who attended Cop26, said: “There were huge expectations that Cop26 would be the moment when wealthy countries stepped up and acknowledged they have done most to cause the climate crisis. They have turned their backs on indigenous communities, small-scale farmers, women and girls who desperately need support to recover and rebuild after climate disasters. This is a matter of great injustice.”
Ms Curran said although the commitment to “urgently deliver” $100 billion (€87 billion) for climate finance was welcome, it is still a fraction of the amount that will be needed in the face of the climate emergency.
Trócaire chief executive Caoimhe de Barra said: “This was an exclusionary Cop. Civil society found it difficult to access the Cop sessions, and many were excluded from the negotiation area.
“People from the global South and countries most affected by the climate crisis were under-represented . . . yet they are the most affected communities and their voices needed to be heard.”
Simon Murtagh of Oxfam Ireland said: “At every level, Cop26 did not deliver the goals we sought urgent action on. The process couldn’t deliver for small island states facing immediate destruction. Nor could it deliver for two million Kenyans currently left destitute by the effects of climate change, nor for millions more in Yemen, Madagascar or central America, who face hunger and destitution caused by climate change.”