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Cop26 betrayed the global South

Real action to deal with the climate emergency will require system change – without it, money will always outweigh the interests of the world’s poorest, argues ROGER McKENZIE

THE 26th UN Climate Change Conference (Cop26) has ended in Glasgow. Every year (with the exception of the Covid-stricken 2020) the 200 countries who are party to the United Nations Framework Convention established at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 come together to talk about the climate emergency.

But don’t believe the hype — Cop26 was an elaborate hoax on the people of the world. It was designed by politicians to make the world believe that there was a genuine seriousness to tackle the climate emergency. No such seriousness exists.

The discussions leading up to the summit talked about how we were drinking in the last-chance saloon. It is now close to last orders: the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C was never close to happening.

The economic interests of the most powerful nations and the huge fossil fuel lobby — who were present in Glasgow in large numbers — made sure of that.

Unfortunately we are far more likely, as a consequence of Cop26, to see global temperatures rise by a catastrophic 2.5°C.

The Paris Agreement of 2015 was supposed to have put in place a process where all signatories, not just the rich industrialised nations, took action.

They all agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and take actions to respond to the impacts of the climate catastrophe.

It was also agreed that wealthier nations should provide finance and the technologies to help the poor and vulnerable countries to take action.

The reality is that very little progress has been made on any of these targets.

Nations of the global South are already in dire climate peril. However, Northern nations are also experiencing accelerated climate-related disasters.

Politicians across the globe know this to be the case but choose not to take the action that the science tells them is required — sheer hypocrisy at a time when they laud the importance of following the science to deal with Covid-19.

Cop26 was more about scrambling to find a compromise between planet survival and the interests of the all-powerful fossil fuel lobby.

It was a public relations exercise where the rich and powerful nations boldly and successfully defended their class interests.

The manoeuvres to defend wealth and power are also destroying the biodiversity of our planet. October 2021 had the highest deforestation rate for the month on record. A destroyed biodiversity also displaces indigenous people at the altar of more profits.

Black, brown and indigenous peoples are being sacrificed so that powerful transnational corporations, with the agriculture and fossil fuel lobby at their head, can continue to make eye-watering profits.

The Cop26 agreement has already been denounced as a betrayal of the global South by respected organisations such as War on Want and the Cop26 Coalition that brought together groups and individuals mobilising for climate justice at the summit.

War on Want director Asad Rehman, speaking on behalf of the Coalition, to a largely empty conference hall, called the agreement out for what it was — a death sentence to many in the global South, with the richest countries deciding who will live and who will die.

This death sentence was reached by consensus. It is a mechanism designed to maintain the control of the most powerful nations.

Nations of the global South had little choice but to sign their own death warrants and agree to something that will do little, if anything, to even slow down the climate catastrophe that they are already experiencing.

The mention of coal for the first time at a Cop is being hailed by some politicians as a major breakthrough. I am sure that it is. But if this represents the height of our celebration, then by the time we get around at a future Cop to saying that coal should stay in the ground it will be way too late and beyond meaningless.

Once again, the rich and powerful nations have demonstrated what matters to them: money and power.

There was no hesitance in finding money to bail out the banks after the economic crash of 2008, but when it comes to taking the actions to save our planet, short-termism prevailed in the shape of a jamboree of hollow words.

We should all pay tribute to the activists who worked so hard before and during Cop26. They have shown amazing energy and commitment.

We will need that commitment even more going forward.

These politicians clearly cannot be trusted to prioritise people over profits. It is just not within their class interests to do so. So the people of the world must organise and replace them with people who will do what is necessary and, at the same time, seize control back from the transnational companies that keep these politicians in their pockets like loose change.

I recently saw a social media picture of someone holding a home-made sign that said “environmentalism without class politics is just gardening.” I think there is something in that.

Roger Mckenzie is general secretary of Liberation ( and a writer and activist.


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