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Five useful things you can do during COP26

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Climate justice
COP26
Internationalize it! A girl takes part in a global day of action on climate change in Khayelitsha township near Cape Town, South Africa in September 2020.
SUMAYA HISHAM/REUTERS

Another round of UN climate talks is upon us. While the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) plays out in Glasgow, UK – from 31 October to 12 November – there will be plenty of opportunities to raise our voices in support of the deep cuts in emissions we need to stop irreversible climate breakdown. Based on what’s up for discussion at COP26, here are five suggestions for how we should focus our energies:

1 Challenge false solutions

Despite the hype, COP26 won’t be making many big, formal decisions; it will mainly be thrashing out the unfinished details of the 2015 Paris deal. The thorny issue of carbon trading will be one to watch closely. Polluting governments are pushing for carbon markets that are loosely regulated, packed with loopholes and tricksy double-counting that will help them appear to meet their reduction targets without actually reducing their emissions. We need to rebut these fake solutions – on social media, by talking to the people around us or by joining protests and campaigns that push for meaningful action at COP26 and beyond.

2 Demand global justice

At previous COPs, Northern governments pledged to provide money to the Global South, to help fund the transition to clean energy and protect communities from ongoing climate impacts. This is only fair, as the climate crisis is overwhelmingly the fault of the industrialized nations and their corporations. There are also calls to cover the loss and damage low-income countries have already suffered from climate disasters. However, the amounts pledged to date are insufficient and have not even yet been delivered in full. Industrialized nations will try to sideline these issues at COP26. It’s up to us – and the organizations we are part of – to keep global justice in the spotlight.

3 Secure local wins

Politicians like to talk a big climate game when a COP rolls around. This is your chance to put local representatives on the spot. From coal mines and oil fields in the UK to pipelines in the US and Canada, there are multiple disastrous projects being pushed by governments claiming to be ‘climate leaders’. This is a chance to shine a light on domestic climate failings and put a stop to these projects.

4 Call out failure 

Many governments will be scrambling to claim the COP as a success – and the media don’t have a great track record of challenging this. Keep an eye out for updates to Nationally Determined Contributions – the amount of greenhouse gas that each state is pledging to cut in the coming years. Unless these keep the earth below 1.5°C warming – and come with sufficient help for Southern countries – then they’re not good enough. Many countries are diverting attention from Paris commitments with pledges to go ‘net-zero by 2050’ – a much more convenient target as it’s far into the future and can include unfeasible amounts of tree-planting and unproven carbon capture technologies. Our job is to bring the conversation back to what governments are doing right now, and in the next few years, when it urgently matters.

5 Internationalize 

A major criticism of COP26 has been the lack of access for global civil society – the UK’s failure to provide sufficient Covid-19 vaccinations, quarantine funding or visa exemptions is likely to shut large numbers of people out of the talks, especially those representing the Global South and indigenous communities. These voices need to be heard, as they are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and hold many of the real solutions to it. Climate activists in the Global North can play a useful role providing platforms for those shut out of COP26 – and maintaining those links. To avoid the worst climate scenarios, we need an international movement based on global solidarity, with the power to create the change.

To find out about organizing around COP26 go to: cop26coalition.org

Visit specialist climate sites carbonbrief.org and desmog.com for up-to-date coverage of key policy battles at the talks.

New Internationalist issue 534 magazine cover This article is from the November-December 2021 issue of New Internationalist.
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