Glasgow climate talks – crumbs from the table

WelCom December 2021 Martin de Jong, Caritas Advocacy Advisor  United Nations climate talks (COP26) held in Glasgow, UK in November were described by many civil society organisations as the least…

WelCom December 2021

Martin de Jong, Caritas Advocacy Advisor 

United Nations climate talks (COP26) held in Glasgow, UK in November were described by many civil society organisations as the least participatory to date, as Covid restrictions and other measures limited the representation of many Pacific Island nations and monitoring of the negotiations by civil society. 

As Lydia Machaka, Climate Justice and Energy Officer for the Catholic development alliance CIDSE, said: ‘Impressive political statements without comprehensive and inclusive civil society input and without consideration for those already severely affected by climate change result in a mediocre outcome.’

Caritas members from around the world were at COP26, including Caritas agencies for England and Wales (CAFOD) and Scotland (SCIAF). Neil Thorns, CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy, described COP26 as a ‘major disappointment’, saying ‘it simply hasn’t delivered the urgent action or justice required. Instead, it has been pushed until 2022 to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C and deliver the climate finance so desperately needed.’

Countries were expected to come with stronger commitments to cut emissions faster to try to keep global warming below 1.5°C. Just before the conference began, 153 countries of the 195 signatories to the Paris Agreement updated their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs – their plans for climate action). These updated NDCs were estimated to still lead to 2.7°C of global warming by 2100.

Many countries have pledged a long-term goal, but not specified the detailed plans to get there – New Zealand among them. New Zealand only updated its NDC on the eve of COP26 and was widely criticised for using accounting tricks to make the numbers look better than they were, as well as relying on overseas carbon credits rather than reducing emissions at home.

On climate finance to help poorer countries in climate action, developed countries are still falling short of the US$100 billion a year target (from private and public sources). Meant to be achieved by 2020, it is not expected to be reached until 2023. However, in Glasgow, developed countries did commit to double adaptation finance from 2019 levels by 2025, recognising the urgent need to provide for greater adaptation in vulnerable nations.

Funding for loss and damage – irreversible losses, and damage to infrastructure caused by climate change impacts (such as more extreme weather events and sea level rise) – is one of the most contentious issues under the United Nations climate framework. It was inadequately addressed in the Paris Agreement of 2015, as rich countries refused to accept any form of liability to pay for losses caused by climate change. However, debate continues on ways to fund loss and damage costs, and a special Dialogue has been convened from 2022 to 2024.

In October, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand reported climate finance for the most vulnerable in the Pacific was still woefully inadequate through its annual ‘Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania’ report. 

We all have a part to play in lowering emissions and helping the most vulnerable deal with climate change impacts. Caritas encourages Catholics to monitor the Government’s own climate plans; and join the seven-year journey to sustainability being promoted by the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development through the Laudato si’ Action Platform. 

For more information, visit 

Laudato si’ Action Platform

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  • Parishes & Diocese
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Read more: COP26 did not go far enough