Written by volunteer Lena
How successful was COP 26? Panelists and attendees of WCIA’s online reflection session on 9 December highlighted key moments and lessons learned – clearly agreeing that the 2021 United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow was a mixed bag.
The commitment made at COP 26 will not get us to keep global warming at or below 1.5 °C. Our panelists reflected on the key moment when ‘phasing out’ fossil fuels became ‘phasing down’ on the last day of COP, which showed how much resistance there is still to make radical changes.
At the same time, the conference was a platform for hope and ambition. One may describe it as “two events in one” (Kevin Rahman-Daultrey, Size of Wales) with major differences between the official negotiations and the conversations amongst the many unofficial attendees, groups and activists – the latter showing the huge potential of collective action.
Increased perceived urgency
Whether it turns out to be a driver for change, COP 26 made it very clear: There is no more hiding – climate change is happening, and society must act now. This recognised urgency leaves little room for excuses or deferrals. To ensure that pledges will be turned into actions, it is highly appropriate that there is an expectation that commitments will need to be ratcheted up at COP 27 in Egypt next year.
As a key problem driving climate change, deforestation rightly received much more attention than previously – with some progress and major commitments. However, it is still not clearly visibly whether or how these commitments are reflected in policies and actions. Find out more about what needs to be done in Wales in this report (link) by WWF, Size of Wales and partners.
Opportunity for dialogue, collaboration, and joint efforts
COP 26 was an amazing opportunity for people to get together, engage with different perspectives, and amplify the collective potential. A lot of very important conversations and encounters could only take place because it went ahead as a live event.
For Poppy Stowell-Evans, Chair of Youth Climate Ambassadors in Wales, it was an ‘eye-opening experience’, which helped her understand the intersection of social justice and climate change. She feels privileged to have been able to represent the Welsh youth activists, meet with Mark Drakeford and most of all listen to people from countries such as Uganda or Brazil who feel the effects of climate change in their daily lives at present.
Lack of solidarity with vulnerable nations
The voices of those who are already most affected, have not been heard loudly enough. While the importance of climate finance in solidarity with low-income countries was highlighted, many were disappointed by the outcome on loss and damage. It is significant that indigenous people were very much underrepresented during negotiations (as was youth). Speeches at COP 26 such as the one of Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, are striking evidence of the power dynamics.
‘Welsh Force of Climate Action’
COP 26 has shown how much action is happening on the ground. In the run-up to the event, the Climate Cymru initiative has created a new space for Welsh organisations and individuals – and allowed for those voices to be represented and shared in Glasgow, showing that the people of Wales deeply care about climate change. It is a powerful network that has great potential to drive change if the positive noise is actually turned into positive action. There is a lot of energy out there which now needs to be used – ‘we have got to keep pushing’ (Susie).
Wales has clearly demonstrated its willingness to play a leading role. To live up to this ambition, there is a lot to do still. The voices that our leaders have heard at Cop26, particularly those of indigenous people, can be taken back to Wales and translated into action. Wales needs to clearly position itself and show greater solidarity with countries on the frontline of climate change – there needs to be more commitment on loss and damage.
To move forward and away from fossil fuels, it will be crucial to further invest into renewable energy industries and allow for integrative and innovative solutions, based on expert knowledge. (Prof. Ashraf Fahmy, Senior Technical Manager, Solartech) The most recent announcements of the First Minister of a new annual £20m investment into tidal stream technology are a promising step in the right direction. Lionel Makunde (UK Health and Environment Independent Advisor, Solartech) also points out the great potential of recycling waste.
Driving change to protect the planet will have to be a joint effort. Climate action needs both: individual responsibility is just as critical as a government that provides the necessary frameworks for action. Through legislation and different types of support, consumers can be enabled to make the right choices, such as purchasing fair-trade products. Appropriate education is key and should be prioritised to ensure people are informed and aware of their impact. (It is a great idea to provide every household in Wales with a tree, but a long-term effect also requires that people know how to take care of it.)
It is also important to understand individual barriers to transition, to provide support for those who depend on certain practices or products, and to increase accessibility to get involved. Community engagement will play a vital role. We need to take account of people’s concerns and restrictions, but also their interests and ideas, to allow for behavioral change and individual responsibility. We need to share skills, knowledge and strengths, and make use of them. (Mari McNeil, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru) “We need to represent and amplify authentic voices – and most importantly, we need to keep conversations going.” Climate Cymru can be continuously useful to link up organisations’ action plans and make the most of the existing collective energy in Wales.
Prof. Ashraf Fahmy, Senior Technical Manager, Solartech
Kevin Rahman-Daultrey, Size of Wales
Lionel Makunde, UK Health and Environment Independent Advisor, Solartech
Mari McNeil, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru
Poppy Stowell-Evans, Chair of Youth Climate Ambassadors in Wales