By Alex Kim
The second week of COP26 focused on drafting a global climate accord by the end of the summit, as criticisms continued to swirl around pledges that were made.
Day Eight: Sunday, Nov. 7
A counter climate summit began on Sunday, Nov. 7, because of the “greenwashing” and inaction from investors and world leaders of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). The purpose of The People’s Summit for Climate Justice is to bring attention to ideas and solutions which, it believes, have not been effectively addressed at COP26. Some of the key points that the counter-summit advocated for were the Global Green New Deal – a UN proposition from 2009 that has never been passed – and corporate liability for the climate crisis. The counter summit comes after last week’s highly criticized failure of COP26 to universally commit to phasing out fossil fuels quickly enough to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “The people’s summit is not only about shifting power, it’s a pronouncement of mistrust in our leaders,” said Tammam Aloudat, a Syrian doctor and director of the Global Health center in Geneva. “This is a symbolic act of dissent.”
Day Nine: Monday, Nov. 8
Former President Barack Obama told UN delegates that, “…when it comes to climate, time really is running out.” Nevertheless, Obama said that there had been progress in addressing climate change by establishing the 2015 Paris Agreement and criticized former President Trump for withdrawing from the treaty. “I wasn’t real happy about that,” he said in a statement. He also called on the attending representatives to address the risks associated with rising sea levels that island nations currently face. “I have been shaped by my experience growing up in Hawaii,” he said. “We have to act now to help with adaptation and resilience.” The former president’s appearance at the summit was met with great enthusiasm, and he received a standing ovation for his statements. He stressed the power of activism, particularly among young people, in pressuring corporations and nations into taking direct action to mitigate the climate crisis. “The most important energy in this movement is coming from young people,” Obama said, “And the reason is simple. They have more at stake in this than anybody else.”
Day 10: Tuesday, Nov. 9
The Biden Administration’s radical $1 trillion climate change and social service bill called the Build Back Better Act also became a topic at COP26. The bill will invest $500 billion to combat climate change through clean energy tax credits. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi echoed President Biden’s enthusiasm that the U.S. was back at the table at COP26. Pelosi voiced her enthusiasm for the Build Back Better Act and its climate change components, saying that America is “ready to take on the challenge, to meet the moment.” Ocasio-Cortez also expressed confidence in the new bill. “When we pass the Build Back Better Act, we absolutely will then become and regain our position as leading on climate emissions,” she said. If passed, the bill would be the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.
Little Amal, a giant puppet of a Syrian refugee girl, made an appearance to COP26 on Tuesday. The puppet, named the Arabic word for hope, opened Gender Day by shedding light on the reality of refugee children who are disproportionately affected by climate change. The three-and-a-half-meter puppet was joined by Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean; the puppet exchanged a bag of seeds with Fruean for a flower, representing hope and light. “I hope that these seeds Amal has journeyed here with today can inspire you all and remind you [of] the importance of your role as planters of a global future,” Fruean said.
Day 11: Wednesday, Nov. 10
The first draft of a multilateral plan to combat global warming was officially released Wednesday, Nov. 10. The draft contains a list of pledges that aim to limit fossil fuel emissions to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, COP26 as a whole and the draft have been criticized, as the world is on track for 2.4 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, the net-zero goals of 40 countries in COP26 make up 85% of global emission reductions, but only 6% of these reductions have concrete plans supporting them.
The U.S. and China also announced an agreement to amplify their climate efforts. “There is more agreement between the U.S. and China than divergence,” said China’s primary climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua. “By working together our two countries can achieve many important things that are beneficial not only to our two countries but the world as a whole.” However, Xie did not commit China to the Global Methane Pledge, and China remains the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. Nonetheless, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry voiced his approval about the surprise agreement.
Day 12: Thursday, Nov. 11
With less than 48 hours of COP26 left, leaders and officials struggled to finalize a draft of the deal to limit the global climate under 1.5 degrees Celsius on Thursday. A group of 22 nations known as the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), including China and India, asked to remove an entire section from the drafted COP26 agreement. The section of the draft entailed all language outlining the collective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The reasoning behind LMDC’s request was that developing countries should not have to follow the same deadlines and obligations as developed nations which have contributed to the climate crisis for a longer period of time. “History matters and history is very important to understand and to put in the context in the discussion on ambition,” said Bolivia’s chief negotiator, Diego Pacheco. Teresa Anderson, a spokesperson for Climate Action Network called the suggestion to remove the section “a punch in the face of people suffering from the climate crisis.”
Day 13: Friday, Nov. 12
Representatives from across the globe were unable to meet their deadline to strike a global climate accord by Friday. A new draft text was expected by Saturday, Nov. 13, however not meeting deadlines has become common for United Nations climate change conferences. Disputes over money and emission reductions remain points of contention for the summit. The latest draft of the text “notes with deep regret” that the developed world has yet to make good on their pledged $100 billion annual aid to help developing nations.
One of the main points of contention was that of climate “reparations”. Twenty-three developed countries, including the U.S. and U.K., are liable for half of all historical CO2 emissions, while over 150 nations are accountable for another 48%. The remaining 2% are attributable to international transport. The requested reparations fund would be separate from the pledged $100 billion. The fund would be allotted by developed nations for irreparable damage, such as that of national territories, cultures and ecosystems. These irreparable losses are classified in the text as “loss and damage” to avoid direct blame and more conflict. “The term ‘loss and damage’ is a euphemism for terms we’re not allowed to use, which are ‘liability and compensation,’” said Saleemul Huq, a botanist from Bangladesh. “We have entered what I call the era of loss and damage.”