Climate Justice Demands Heading into COP26

by Jay Wu

This November, the COP26 summit will bring together 30,000 delegates from 197 nations and territories to collaborate on carbon emissions reductions plans. Since 1995, the Conference of Parties has met annually to monitor and review the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference not only includes ‘blue zone’ events for the climate experts, campaigners, policy makers and world leaders appointed to represent their nations, but also ‘green zone’ side events where civil society actors discuss social equality and reflect the ‘blue zone’ proceedings. 

The upcoming COP26 summit will be critical for collaborating on ambitious long-term goals and ironing out the details of an international carbon market. However, several climate justice demands heading into COP26 illustrate how ill-prepared the most wealthy and powerful nations are to enact systemic change. 

Blocs of developing countries including the Africa Group, the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and Least Developed Countries, have joined to call for A Five Point Plan for Solidarity, Prosperity and Fairness. This plan, represented by more than 100 developing countries total, includes demands for rich countries to set more aggressive carbon emission targets to compensate for their disproportionate historical emissions, as well as financing and funds for adaptation and mitigation. The plan also emphasizes compensation for losses and damages associated with climate change, given that adaptation and mitigation can only accomplish so much given the stage we’re already in. Finance is “the simplest element of the five-point plan,” with an emphasis on $100 billion from rich to developing countries, in annual grants. 

Meanwhile, the Climate Action Network, representing 1500 civil society organizations in over 130 countries, has pointed out that vaccine inequity will skew COP26 participation heavily. At the time of CAN’s statement made in early September, 57% of people in Europe were fully vaccinated compared to a paltry 3% in Africa. This disparity in vaccination rates stems from the lack of financial support and technology sharing by rich nations and multinational pharmaceutical companies. Travel mandates require COP26 visitors from red-list countries—designated by the WHO as high risk for emerging COVID strains—to quarantine longer than others, resulting in unaffordable accommodation costs for those travelers. While the UK government has now agreed to cover costs for “delegates, observers and media arriving from red list countries”, they will only provide vaccinations for delegates.

Photo: @kenschles. Protestors hold banner reading "National Greed steals from BIPOC communities for poison pipeline"
Photo from No North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition and @kenschles

Notably, COP26’s principal partner is National Grid, a UK-based multinational utility company that provides gas and electricity. National Grid is in fact NYC’s gas provider, and is currently building a pipeline through environmental justice neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York. They’ve also lobbied against legislation to expand renewable energy, and recently won a rate case to raise our utility bills to fund fossil fuel infrastructure. For these reasons, activists from Frack Outta Brooklyn protested National Grid’ involvement in COP26 yesterday.

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