HOT CLIMATE STUFF AT COP 26 – Energy & Expectations

This year’s conference of parties in Glasgow was what you would call “a big cop”. And it was met with a great degree of excitement and anticipation. Attending countries, NGOs, activists and technocrats all went in expecting BIG things. There was a sense that the whole world was watching …

It was situation critical to keep the dream of 1.5 alive and to get home countries to up the ante on pledges to help counter dangerous climate change. Fortunately this did happen, through what’s known as the Ratchet Mechanism. Almost all 200 parties agreed to return in 2022, to report back on their home country’s progress on climate.

While activists and NGO’s declared the COP a total failure, and it was difficult to get all parties to agree on the trillions of dollars of climate aid needed and the massive sacrifices warranted, to try and prevent millions of lives and livelihoods from being destroyed by climate change,  many things were achieved, which are important to reflect on.

In the UK the Government’s Public Attitudes Tracker survey has only tracked public concern about climate change since 2012. Results show a gradual rise in concern since 2015, increasing more rapidly from 2018. Those “very concerned” increased from 23% in 2017 to 35% in 2019. Only 19% said they were not very or at all concerned about climate change.Photo by Lara Jameson
A YouGov survey from early 2020 found a clear pattern by age, with 46% of 18-24 year olds “very concerned” about climate change, compared to 24% of those aged over 65. This pattern is replicated worldwide. A 2019 Amnesty International survey of 10,000 18-25 year olds across 22 countries found 41% said climate change was one of the most important issues facing the world.Photo by Artem Podrez


Over 100 leaders pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

Over 40 countries of 195 have pledged to phase out coal – the single biggest contributor to climate change.

12 countries have committed to a $12 billion funding drive to assist reforestation projects around the world.

“Every country, every city, every company, every financial institution must radically, credibly & verifiably reduce their emissions & decarbonize their portfolios starting now.”
António Guterres, November 11, 2021
Photo by Tom Fisk


Glasgow did however end with a last-minute controversy over the language on coal, with India facing criticism for watering down the deal. The critical wording was purposely shifted from “phase out” to “phase down” at the 11th hour. After long and hard negotiations between the 197 parties, India’s environment minister sought a final amendment, which brought a British diplomat on the podium to tears.

At the UN Climate Olympics there were silent battles, and not so silent battles raging.

Issues with coal and fossil fuels underline the hardship developing countries rightly feel, at having to phase out cheap and reliable fossil fuels. The West and all advanced economies have gotten rich and improved the quality of life of their citizens by profiting from the industrialised age and the power of fossil fuels. Many developing countries rightly feel incensed they must phase out fossil fuels now to help fix the damage done by GIANT  polluters including; Australia, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia and the United States of America.

Coal being the dirtiest of all the fossil fuels, is responsible for a lion’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions. While big exporters like Australia, Brasil, China, and India did not agree to discontinue the production of coal, the Glasgow pact is the first time any kind of curbs for fossil fuels were added to a United Nations climate pact, and this is being celebrated as a major step forward.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26, was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, from 31 October to 13 November 2021. Photo by Sinitta Leunen
The president of the conference was UK cabinet minister Alok Sharma. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference was hosted by Glasgow. Glasgow the host city for COP 26. Photo by Anna Urlapova


Climate Finance was a loser at the conference. The estimated adaptation costs in developing countries could reach $300 billion every year by 2030. And finance for poor countries has been a hot topic at Cops since Paris 2015. Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) was agreed upon in Paris 6 years ago. Paris also came with a spoken commitment from rich countries to help those poorer adapt to the stresses of climate change. However rich countries so far, have not handed over an adequate number of dollars or made a deal that’s legally binding. This must change.

Coping with problems of climate change (like disaster relief) and preparing for the future, both need funding in equal measure.

According to the UN: “Wealthier countries are obligated to fulfil a commitment made in the Paris Agreement to provide $100 billion a year in international climate finance. They should make sure that at least half goes to adaptation. This would be an important symbol of global solidarity in the face of a challenge we can only solve if everyone in the world works together.”

All Parties to the Paris Agreement committed to strengthening the global response to climate change by increasing the ability of all to adapt and build resilience, and reduce vulnerability, but at COP 26 it was clear that it has not been delivered on to anywhere near the extent it should have been.

Currently only 21 per cent of climate finance provided by wealthier countries to assist developing nations goes directly towards adaptation and resilience, approximately $16.8 billion a year. Cop 26 reminded us that in order to make our communities safer, we must act, as a matter of justice.

Watch leading Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain, who reminds us of this here:

“We believe that we can practise unsustainable growth and then just clean it up—but that has never worked.”
Sunita Narain, Environmentalist -Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
Public campaigning and climate change activism have long played a part in legislative and policy reform. NGOs such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have been campaigning on climate change issues since the 1980s. Activism started in earnest in the 1990s, and many more campaign groups formed in the 2000s, working and collaborating on climate change. In recent years climate change has seemed to rise up the public agenda, with new high-profile protests and campaigns being widely reported and catching the attention of the public and politicians.Photo by Markus Spiske
“We have learned to worry about asteroids and super volcanoes, but the more likely scenario is that we humans will destroy ourselves……”
Nick Bostrom “The Future of Humanity”, 2007, Professor of philosophy who directs Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute.
Coal is the single biggest contributor to anthropogenic climate change. The burning of coal is responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide and accounts for 72% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector. If plans to build up to 1200 new coal fired power stations around the world are realized, the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from these plants would put us on a path towards catastrophic climate change, causing global temperatures to rise by over five degrees Celsius by 2100. This will have dire impacts for all life on earth.Photo by Markus Distelrath
Coal was the fastest-growing primary energy source in the world in the past decade: between 2001 and 2010, world consumption of coal increased by 45%. During the same time period, total anthropogenic GHG emissions were the highest in human history. According to the International Energy Agency, to have a 50% chance of staying within 2 degrees celsius of global warming, only zero carbon utilities and infrastructure should be developed beyond 2017. This means that the age of coal must soon come to an end.


Poverty is the greatest polluter and at this COP, civil society, including non-governmental organisations, youth groups, First Nations peoples, climate scientists, universities and public campaigners, emerged as a key force, pushing governments to do more now. Each lobby group will now need to keep the pressure up.

Representation and inclusivity is key to understanding a shift in mood at the Cop26. Over all there was more recognition that – “people who are closest to the pain, should be closest to the power,” as Colombian artist and activist Yazmany Arboleda said.

Yazmany Arboleda pictured is a Colombian American artist based in New York City. An architect by training, Yazmany’s practice focuses on creating “Living Sculptures,” people coming together to transform their experience of the world. He lectures internationally on the power of art in public space. In 2013, he was named one of Good Magazine’s 100 People Making Our World Better. HUNIVERSE OF IDEASis work is motivated largely by political, cultural, and social circumstances. He is also Creative Director of the Brooklyn Cottage, Associate Director of Communications for Artists Striving To End Poverty, and a co-founder of the interdisciplinary performance collective Shook Ones. He lectures at UNC, MIT, and other institutions internationally about the power of art in public space. His work has been written about in the New York Times, Washington Post, UK’s Guardian, Fast Company, and Reuters. @yazmany


Alongside of COP 26 there have been some major Climate Change cases, which the team at The Together Project feel are helping shift the narrative on climate change. Since Paris 2015 there have been over 1000 climate cases globally, looking at Climate Change policies of governments and companies Especially there’s been a strong growth in what’s known as Strategic Cases.

Shell which is headquartered in the Netherlands has been the subject of one such strategic case where the attacking Dutch NGO -Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands and co-plaintiffs ordered the company to cut its emissions in the Hague District Court.

This was backed up a further decision in the Supreme Court that required Royal Dutch Shell to cut dangerous gas emissions by 45% across all of its 1000 subsidiaries. (The court document stated the company must reduce the emissions of the Shell group, its suppliers and its customers by net 45%, as compared to 2019 levels, by the end of 2030, through the corporate policy of the Shell group to reduce emissions) Though Shell will challenge the case in 2023, it is forced to follow the ruling until then. This was a huge win for the climate, and for planet earth overall.

There are also similar strategic cases in France against energy company TOTAL and strong hopes that soon it will become accepted knowledge that all companies and governments must legally protect citizens from the dangerous impact of Climate Change. Fortunately the legal system has been designed to protect human rights and such legal cases brought by NGO’s are important building blocks, helping to make big business and corrupt politician accountable for their actions in the long term.

Now is a time for NGO’s to increase the heat on governments and big business.


Cop 26 was a climate let down, but there’s HOPE.

To hit the 1.5 target, at least 40% of the world’s existing 8,500 coal-fired power plants must be closed by 2030 and no new ones built. This is something all citizens globally can monitor in their own back yard and demonstrate or petition to correct. Small groups of people can change the world. As we are seeing now, one legal case at a time.

What we can be happy about from Cop 26 is that since the Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997 no Cop decision has made a direct reference to phasing out fossil fuels. This is a world first, due to the traditionally fierce opposition from oil-producing and coal-producing countries, and from those nation’s heavily dependent on consuming fossil fuels. True discussions of fossil fuels have long halted major progress at Cop talks where decisions are made by consensus. Even this very watered-down commitment is a major step forward.

In summary, while some progress was made at Cop 26 our planet is now on death row. Current levels of gas emissions will see us reaching a 2.4 degree world or 2.7 degree world in just 9 years time. (While we are currently sitting at 1.1 – 1.3 degrees celsius above pre industrial levels).

In short, Glasgow was never going to be total solution in tackling the climate crisis, but it part of the roadmap out of hell.

Fresh revisions are planned for next year’s meeting in Egypt, rather than several years away, which is a good news. Cop 26 also proved that while democracy may be the worst best way we have of doing the right thing – it is still 100% better than the alternative: doing nothing.

NGO communities and activists, we now need you to stay extraordinarily active.

“Achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, identifying treatments to diseases like cancer, and harnessing the power of robotics and artificial intelligence to support everyday tasks are all within our grasp. The first country that gives birth to these discoveries will change life as we know it. ”
Alok Sharma, UK cabinet minister and host of COP 26
Photos by Markus Spiske

What next?

Calculate your carbon footprint, then aim to lower it

Join local activists

Write to your local MP about not allowing new coal mines near your home

Boycott banks who finance new coal schemes

Ensure your superannuation and investments are being managed to counter climate risk

Switch banks or superannuation funds to send a clear message to business

Support your children to march for climate consciousness

Ask the right questions when taking out home insurance

Get emergency insurance

Prepare your home for wildfires/ hurricanes and flooding

Lobby government to keep them honest

Educate non-believers

Take action

Shop sustainably




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