COP 26

Date: 29.11.21 | in: Environment

If we were to distil all that is right and all that is wrong with our collective, international fight for humanity into a two-week conference, then COP26 would be it. The will of activists, campaigners, parliamentarians and local governments who have all realised and reconciled with the seriousness that is the existential threat of climate change, have come up against what is an almost impenetrable fortress of certain state Governments, financial institutions and big business interests who are determined to protect fossil fuelled business as usual at all costs – even if the price is the future of humanity itself.

I was honoured to attend COP26 as the Co-Rapporteur for the Inter Parliamentary Union, the world’s oldest multilateral political organisation. Over the past year, I have been working with my Parliamentary counterparts from across the world to find a global approach to fighting climate change.

The joint UK presidency with Italy has meant an extra responsibility to bring together the will and the voice of the world’s Parliaments ahead of the conference. This work, spearheaded by Italian Rapporteur Alessia Rotta and myself, culminated in a meeting in Rome attended by His Holiness Pope Francis, and an outcome document – an ambitious roadmap that sought both to underline the importance of parliamentary engagement in fighting climate change as well as guide and set expectations for our governments who were negotiating the final agreement.

Our document laid out a 20-point plan, that covered a wide range of considerations from sustainable financing for small island developing states (SIDS) – who are particularly vulnerable to current and future climate change and face a host of financial and delivery challenges – to improving the wellbeing of women and girls, who are fourteen times more likely to be victims of a natural disaster.

Our document outlined what a proper transnational mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Paris agreement could look like and implored on our governments to take the steps necessary to ensure greater biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions to ensure the global temperature does not exceed 1.5°C.

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The conference started with what seemed like serious announcements that could deliver the game change that was needed. However, like so much else we have seen of this Government, by the second week it became apparent that whilst the emperor was not quite naked, he was standing in his underwear. The major deforestation agreement suffered backsliding by the Indonesians, the 450 banks promising to use their combined capitalisation of £130tn to invest in net zero was in fact a continued commitment to fund fossil fuels whilst only a tiny fraction will be invested in net zero measures in this next decade.

I attended a session hosted by the Plurinational Authority of Mother Earth talking about the destruction of medicinal plants and a women led approach ‘How would the world be designed by women’ and indigenous women need to reach places decisions are taken.

The forty countries who were ready to phase out coal did not include it seems, China, India or the USA. We will be phasing out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies whilst allowing the ‘efficient’ ones and our slightly higher integrity rules still only closes some of the loopholes that has allowed so much carbon horse-trading.

We have been left with an agreement that still offers room for those millions of people who are fighting climate change with collectivism and optimism to fight another day knowing that the window of time to act is narrowing rapidly. Though the door for success is narrowing and we will need the biggest shift in approach yet when COP returns next year.

Whilst at Cop I took some time to visit I visited the pavillions and met some colleagues to discuss progress of COP26 including Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol, who is Chair of Small Island Developing States APPG around mitigation and adaptation and the failure to deliver so far I also spoke to Kew Gardens about conservation.

In the Post COP statement in Parliament, responding to my question on the fact that Tuvalu has got donor funds committed to build a sea wall but the funds are used up by Donor Country Consultants with no construction in sight, Boris Johnson said this was a matter for the Egyptian Presidency at COP27

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The biggest problem however, is that we leave Glasgow with the collective commitment of all nations leading us on a path to around 2.4°C of global warming. Our only hope now is that the commitment to come back next year will be coupled with overwhelming pressure on all states, particularly the most rich and powerful, to seriously up their game. The UK must once again be a world leader and set an example. My energy now will be on making sure we do.

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