By Kurt Reynolds
LONDON (IDN) — When the COP26 climate change summit ended in the early hours of November 13, the results were mostly dismissed as a major disappointment not only by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at Glasgow but also by former world leaders.
Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders, an independent group of former global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights, rightly summed it up, when she declared: “People will see this as a historically shameful dereliction of duty”.
“COP26 has made some progress, but nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster. While millions around the world are already in crisis, not enough leaders were in crisis mode”, said Robinson, a former President of Ireland.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who was more reserved in his comments, was already setting his sights on the next COP27, scheduled to take place in Egypt in 2022.
“We are in the fight of our lives”, the Secretary-General said, urging everyone to keep pushing forward and adding that “COP27 begins now.”
Guterres said: “We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode—or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero. I reaffirm my conviction that we must end fossil fuels subsidies.
“Phase out coal. Put a price on carbon. Build resilience of vulnerable communities against the here and now impacts of climate change. And make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to support developing countries. We did not achieve these goals at this conference. But we have some building blocks for progress.”
The only commitments, he pointed out, were to end deforestation, drastically reduce methane emissions and mobilize private finance around net zero.
An apology came from the President of COP26 Alok Sharma, who is also Minister of State at the UK Cabinet Office: “I am deeply sorry,” that COP26 failed to the secure concrete promises much of the globe desired, but world leaders did not produce”.
Perhaps the most devastating attack came from the Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnès Callamard, who said in a hard-hitting statement “that leaders have catastrophically betrayed humanity at large by failing to protect people most affected by the climate crisis and instead caving into the interests of fossil fuel and other powerful corporations.”
She pointedly said the two-week-long UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow failed to deliver an outcome that protects the planet or the people.
“Instead, it has betrayed the very foundations on which the United Nations was built—a pledge first not to countries, nor states, but to the people. Throughout their negotiations, our leaders have made choices that ignore, chip away or bargain away our rights as human beings, often discarding the most marginalised communities around the world as expendable collateral damage”.
“Their failure to commit to maintaining the global temperature rise at 1.5°C will condemn more than half a billion people, mostly in the global south, to insufficient water and hundreds of millions of people to extreme heatwaves”.
Despite this disastrous scenario, she said, in a critical analysis of the outcome, “wealthy countries have failed to commit money towards compensating communities suffering loss and damage as a result of climate change. Neither have they committed to providing climate finance to developing countries primarily as grants, a decision that threatens poorer countries—the least equipped to cope with the climate crisis – with unsustainable levels of debt.”
Like Amnesty International, there were scores of NGOs and climate change activists who were campaigning in the streets—and outside the conference rooms in Glasgow.
The Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a global, community-based Buddhist social movement promoting peace, culture and education, was one of the lead campaigners in Glasgow sponsoring not only several side events but also urging more and more young people take up the responsibility of adopting solutions to the current climate emergency.
Among NGOs, some of the more concrete proposals involving youth came from SGI, whose President Daisaku Ikeda proposed annual UN Youth Climate Summits leading to 2030 and called for a Security Council Resolution mainstreaming youth participation in climate-related decision-making.
Additionally, SGI also called for regional- and national-level youth summits focusing on climate change and other post-COVID challenges, along with a call for the establishment of a UN Youth Council that would regularize and sustain youth engagement and leadership.
During the summit, the Tokyo-based SGI, along with SGI-UK and the Centre for Applied Buddhism (CfAB) provided a platform for dialogues among key stakeholders from faith leaders to youth activists under the theme “Sowing Seeds of Hope—Action for Climate Justice.”
The video link follows: https://youtu.be/SAIFRmJFtGE
“We are not voiceless, but we are unheard,” said Shreya KC of Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, at a November 3 event at Websters Theatre in Glasgow titled “Beyond Rhetoric—Youth Leadership for Climate Action”.
The event was marked by youth leaders from the Global South, including from Nigeria and Pakistan, who were passionately articulate in their visions for climate justice.
At a November 4 panel titled “Global Justice – Climate Justice,” Shanon Shah, director of Faith for the Climate, clarified that the climate crisis is a social and political issue because the most vulnerable, who have done least to cause the climate emergency, are suffering the most.
Several events highlighted the power of human stories to make people care. The Netherlands-based indigenous activist Raki Ap stated “story change can create system change”.
On November 1, the exhibition “Seeds of Hope & Action,” created by the SGI in collaboration with the Earth Charter International, was launched at Websters, bringing a message of hope and empowerment to tackle the despair caused by the climate crisis.
Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder of the Green Generation Initiative of Kenya and Global South Co-chair of the COP26 Civil Society and Youth Advisory Council, spoke at the launch.
The link to the events: https://sites.google.com/view/sowing-seeds-of-hope/home/
Soka Gakkai organizations around the world have been active in the lead-up to COP26. SGI-UK and the Centre for Applied Buddhism held a year-long series of monthly webinars sharing Buddhist perspectives from individual SGI-UK members and other climate activists.
Groups in India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore have also initiated grassroots awareness-raising programs on the climate crisis.
On the first day of the conference, October 31, the SGI, at a press conference, called for genuine global solidarity of action to address the climate emergency.
“As well as accelerating the reduction of greenhouse gases, it is crucial that the outcomes of COP26 leave no one behind, strengthen education, give increased leadership opportunities to young people and empower us all to sow seeds of hope and action.”
The Soka Gakkai is a global community-based Buddhist organization promoting peace, culture and education with 12 million members around the world. Since 1983, it is also an NGO in consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Centre for Applied Buddhism (CfAB) is a UK-based hub of research, dialogue and study. [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 November 2021]
Photo (From left to right): Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at COP26—panelists who joined a discussion convened by Scottish First Minister Sturgeon.
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