The final result of this year’s UN climate conference, COP 26, received a largely critical response from civil society, with praise for its first-ever references to fossil fuels, a doubling of climate adaptation funding, and a final deal on international carbon credits outweighed by delayed commitments on greenhouse gas reductions and a broader failure on climate finance, including compensation for loss and damage in the world’s most vulnerable countries.
“Hearing no objections, it is so decided,” an exhausted COP President Alok Sharma declared as he gavelled the first part of the COP decision, apparently near tears after only six hours’ sleep over three nights. But there were plenty of objections to the final outcome, even if the U.K. Presidency and the world’s richest countries had long since stopped listening.
Here’s a cross-section of the reaction.
“We were told COP 26 was the last best chance to keep 1.5°C alive, but it’s been placed on life support. Rich nations have kicked the can down the road, and with it the promise of the urgent climate action people on the front line of this crisis need.” – Amanda Mukwashi, CEO, Christian Aid
“Clearly some world leaders think they aren’t living on the same planet as the rest of us. It seems no amount of fires, rising sea levels, or droughts will bring them to their senses to stop increasing emissions at the expense of humanity. Punishing, extreme weather is already wrecking the lives of the most vulnerable. People are barely clinging on, having little resources to cope with the constant threat of losing all that they own. The world’s poorest have done the least to cause the climate emergency, yet are the ones left struggling to survive while also footing the bill.” – Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director, Oxfam International
“This summit has been a triumph of diplomacy over real substance. The outcome here reflects a COP held in the rich world, and the outcome contains the priorities of the rich world. Not only did developed countries fail to deliver the long promised US$100 billion of climate finance to poorer countries, but they have also failed to recognize the urgency of delivering this financial support. They claim to want urgency on emissions reductions, yet they continue to expand fossil fuel production within their own borders.” – Mohamed Adow, Director, Power Shift Africa
“We saw a call here in Glasgow for emergency actions to deal with the existential threat of climate change, and some important initiatives were launched, but whether enough countries raise their 2030 ambition enough to keep 1.5°C in reach will be the real test of the success of this COP. Developed countries committed to double finance for developing country adaptation, but much more is needed to help these countries prepare for the increased climate impacts they will face in coming years.” – Alden Meyer, Senior Associate, E3G
“There is consensus that this is a critical decade for accelerated action. It is a race against time. If countries do not step up substantially in the next year or two, by taking action like phasing out coal, addressing the role of gas, then the future picture is really bleak.” – Bill Hare, CEO, Climate Analytics
“The real test now is whether countries accelerate their efforts and translate their commitments into action. Negotiators found common ground on key issues, including agreeing to further strengthen 2030 targets in order to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach, step up and accelerate financial support to developing countries, establish a dedicated space to finally address permanent losses and damages from climate impacts, and finalize rules to implement the Paris Agreement.” But “a number of major emitters have weak 2030 plans and will need to put forward more aggressive targets to drive down emissions this decade…” – Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO, World Resources Institute
“This is momentous: the net is closing in on fossil fuels, and coal is at the front line. Coal needs to be the first fossil fuel to go, and mid-century is clearly too late. Today is an urgent wake-up call to do whatever it takes to stop using coal for making electricity. Final wording on ‘phaseout’ or ‘phasedown’ doesn’t change that fact. Countries will need to submit new climate plans for 2030 by the end of next year, so there are only 12 months for countries to work out how to solve their coal problem.” – Ember Global Lead Dave Jones
A “green light for more coal production” and a “huge win for coal” – Australian Senator Matthew Canavan
“We have sadly seen the hand of fossil fuel interests interfering with that text to water it down with weasel words…This language ‘unabated coal,’ ‘inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’—we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it in the G20 for 12 years—’inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’. It means nothing.” – Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Destination Zero
“While the unprecedented fossil fuels phaseout pledge was weakened by a last-minute deal between China (the world’s largest fossil fuel consumer) the U.S. (the world’s largest fossil fuel producer), the EU, and India, it is still there. Despite the watering down from ‘phase-out’ to ‘phase down’, the cause of the climate crisis has for the first time since the Kyoto Protocol been called out by the 198 signatories of the Paris Agreement. The change in language was condemned by small island states, Switzerland, Mexico, and—ironically—the EU, which decided to support the shift despite slamming it as a ‘bad economic choice’. But despite progress on future emissions reductions, COP 26 failed those most impacted by the climate crisis now. The EU and U.S. refused to create a fund that the poorest countries could draw on for crisis response, outraging small islands and many climate vulnerable nations.” – Climate diplomacy specialist Ed King
“Despite the science, the energy, enthusiasm, and passion of communities, activists, environmental defenders, and NGOs both in Glasgow and across the world, global leaders at COP 26 have failed to put people and the planet ahead of profits and vested corporate interests. The fight to save humanity is on. In the words of Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, anything above 1.5°C global warming will be a ‘death sentence’ in many parts of the world, with Indigenous communities, people of colour, and the poorest being hit hardest.” – Seema Joshi, Director of Campaigns, Global Witness
“It’s an uphill fight when our negotiators are outnumbered by fossil fuel lobbyists 12 to 1. It’s an uphill fight when the U.K. government makes it almost impossible and unsafe for civil society to attend the climate talks. But 1.5°C is not optional. It is an absolute necessity, and this horizon should guide every single decision made by every single international institution, country, and local authority.” – Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Managing Director, 350.org
“At COP26, Canada agreed to raise climate targets in line with 1.5°C by the end of 2022. To the Government of Canada, we say: we will hold you to this promise, because true climate action goes beyond press releases and happens at home. We will be watching to ensure Canada finally delivers on cutting emissions, while prioritizing Indigenous peoples’ rights and a just transition for workers and communities. We will be watching to ensure that Canada doesn’t rely on weak offsetting mechanisms at the expense of communities around the world, or cave in to the interests of those who came to COP to delay action, create loopholes, and compromise our future. We leave Glasgow with renewed conviction that we must fight back against every fraction of a degree of warming, to protect the people and the places we love.” – Eddy Pérez, International Climate Diplomacy Manager, Climate Action Network-Canada
“This COP was supposed to be about securing a safe future for youth and future generations, but throughout the entire conference we have been patronized, tokenized, excluded, and ignored. It is no surprise the outcome of COP 26 is weak because its engagement of young people, Indigenous peoples, marginalized communities, developing countries, scientific evidence, and more has been weak. An equitable outcome requires an equitable process, both of which COP 26 has failed to secure. If the Government of Canada wants to be the climate leader it claims to be, engagement with the people and commitment to the promises they have made to us must become a priority.” – Aliya Hirji, youth organizer, Climate Strike Canada
“We’re in a five-alarm fire, but Biden refuses to use a firehose. President Biden can use his unique set of executive powers to stop fossil fuel project approvals and declare a climate emergency, but he isn’t. Failing to act on fossil fuels is beyond climate denial, it’s climate atrocity.” – Jean Su, Energy Justice Director, U.S. Center for Biological Diversity
“There is a misconception that COP 26 in Glasgow did not produce concrete decisions. But it did. World leaders decided that it is not worth saving [places like] the Maldives. No wonder the youth ambassadors from around the world participating at COP 26…are livid.” – Mathis Wackernagel, President and Co-Founder, Global Footprint Network
“Today’s agreement on Article 6 provides the rules necessary for a robust, transparent, and accountable carbon market. These rules will allow the development of an international carbon market to promote more and faster climate ambition and create a further avenue for finance flows from developed to developing countries.” – Kelley Kizzier, Vice President for Global Climate, U.S. Environmental Defense Fund
“The expansion of carbon markets, techno-fixes, and finance programs allowing historical polluters to ramp up global fossil fuel production will only intensify the climate emergency. The consequences of COP 26 are dire and will impact the survival of Indigenous peoples and local communities across the planet, while doing little to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at source. Many communities around the world do not have time.” – Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network
“The agreement [on Article 6] closes down some of the outrageous loopholes that had been considered, but the language remains unclear in some areas and we have much to do to stop companies and countries gaming the system. We have no room or time for markets like buckets of water, with 100 tiny holes…What the deal does do, however, is make it even more important that voluntary use of carbon markets is limited, high quality, and used in specific circumstances. Science drives integrity and integrity may drive scale. That makes the job of the UN Secretary General’s expert group on setting standards for corporate net-zero commitments all the more important.” – Rachel Kyte, Dean, Tufts Fletcher School
“The Paris Agreement is working. It was never expected to solve the climate emergency in one go—but to do so over time. In 2014, before the Agreement was adopted, the world was heading toward close to 4°C of global heating. Coming out of COP 26, new commitments made mean that we are heading toward closer to around 2°…The test will be whether Glasgow marks the transition from promises made on paper to turning those promises into reality.” – Kaveh Guilanpour, Vice President of International Strategies, U.S. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions