COP26 just wrapped up. The event had tremendous attention because by now we are well aware that without sweeping, urgent action, climate change will cause catastrophic disruption to our lives, and our world. Every such summit has failed before this one, to accomplish what needed to be done, which further added pressure. So, did we deliver this time? The simple answer is, no.
Sure; throughout COP26, several initiatives addressing climate resilience were announced, to drive progress towards our shared goal of keeping 1.5ºC within reach. Unfortunately, details and requisite funding were missing. In fact, COP26 saw a great deal of climate pledges, with countries promising to end and reverse deforestation, phase out coal, and reduce methane emissions. Across the board however, policy, planning and funding fell short of these goals.
“Everyone was committed to saving the planet, but there were highly diverging views about how to do it. A welter of announcements on everything from coal to methane to forests dominated the opening days. Large numbers were discussed and ambitious targets were set”. – Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies
Certainly there were some worthy efforts. Last week, for instance, Edinburgh City joined over 30 cities in the Climate Champion’s Race to Resilience campaign. The UN-backed initiative also launched a metrics framework that allows cities, regions, businesses and investors to measure the progress of their work in building resilience to climate change. Over 2.3 billion people and 100 natural systems and over 100 countries are so far covered by the work being carried out by the Race to Resilience’s partner initiatives.
Private enterprises too, got further engaged. We too believe it is imperative that businesses lead by example. In fact, as a partner of the We Mean Business Coalition, PATHFINDER is one of the 800 businesses to sign the Open Letter to G20 leaders, with asks on 1.5ºC alignment, energy and finance. Building climate resilience is actually critical for small businesses to remain viable, but they often lack the time, funding, staffing and immediate incentives to take action. Large corporations are increasing decarbonization demands for SMEs in order to meet their own net-zero targets by tackling emissions in their supply chains. Corporates and governments must work together to support SMEs and incentivize the transition, ensuring no one is left behind. But even the private sector needs clear, ambitious policies to drive this objective further and faster.
“The announcements from governments so far on climate action are heading in the right direction. There’s a ratcheting up of ambition but it’s not going far enough.” – Rasmus Valanko, Leading systems transformation at We Mean Business.
Citizens, and youth in particular, were seen protesting in cities around the globe, demanding our leaders put aside special interests and do what is necessary to save the world. It is after all, ordinary citizens and youth especially, who must suffer the worst consequences of a heated planet.
Canadian environmental youth activist, Ta’Kiya Blaney Chegajimixw, spoke of her frustration with this year’s summit, “I’ve been inside these spaces since I was eight. Back then, I ripped up the COP declaration, and I will rip up today’s. Nothing has changed inside this space; it is a performance; it’s an illusion; it’s for convincing the public that something is happening. The climate agreements are actually trade agreements. It’s a way of salvaging global economies based upon colonialism and the extraction of our territories without interrupting them.” – Ta’Kiya Blaney Chegajimixw, Tla’amin Nation Canada, Environmental Activist
It is indeed past time for all nations to demonstrate climate ambition that reduces the degradation of our environment, and (dare we say) reverses it. That we will see enduring damages is certain. How much damage exactly, is something we can still control. We have yet to plan exactly how we will respond to this damage. We do know however, that the solution is to work collectively. That includes our citizens, our enterprises, and our leaders.