The government’s approach to COP26 has been underwhelming and disappointing
"What’s your hope for COP26?” Scared. Angry. Struggling for hope.
These would be my truthful answers when I’m asked how I’m feeling about COP26. For years we’ve known about the climate crisis, yet consistently failed to act. Young people, indigenous communities, people of colour and other marginalised groups on the frontlines, have been calling for action for years but our screams have consistently been met with empty silence – ignored, pushed aside and suppressed. In the last 50 years, the rate of global temperature increase has nearly doubled. The current extinction rate is estimated to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural rate; one in four mammals face a high risk of extinction in the near future. And in 2019 alone, 24.9 million people were displaced due to natural disasters – equivalent to approximately half the population of England. Yet we still fail to act!
We’ve already had 25 previous COPs: discussions have been had, agreements have been made, yet climate breakdown is only getting worse. These COPs have failed us! The climate crisis is systemic and global and must be tackled globally. COP should be our hope for the strong, holistic, international plans needed to tackle this global crisis, but it’s no good if, for many countries, these plans aren’t followed through and no significant action is taken.
It’s disappointing to see the UK government claim to be a climate leader when its policies and actions show the complete opposite. Rather than striving to reduce our fossil fuel use, the UK government is set to approve a vast new oil field to the west of Shetland (Cambo) and extract 170 million barrels of oil in the first phase. In 2020, planning permission for a new deep coal mine in Cumbria was initially granted, set to extract 2.7m tonnes of coal each year (that decision is now under review). And even the Green Homes Grant, part of Boris Johnson’s own “Build Back Greener” plans, was scrapped after just six months. These actions are incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement and much-needed climate action.
One in four mammals face a high risk of extinction in the near future
The UK, along with the rest of the Western world, should be leading in climate action, especially given the fact we hold most of the responsibility for this crisis. For years we’ve emitted masses of greenhouse gases with no restraints or immediate consequences. Our actions have led to the crisis we are facing, yet we do not face the brunt of this emergency. And those who do, people in the Global South, indigenous people and people of colour, are consistently left out of these global discussions. COP26 is highly inaccessible for many on the frontlines and although COP26 has seen marginalised groups and leaders be invited, this invitation does not automatically mean attendance. Finance (with expensive travel and a lack of accommodation) and Covid restrictions are just two of the significant barriers: travel and accommodation is expensive, and some have struggled to get access to vaccines. Without hearing the voices of those most affected by our actions, how can we truly strive and work towards globally just climate solutions?
We need urgent action, especially from the West – from us. Our plans must be ambitious and strive to build a world where everyone, globally, can thrive. When leaving COP26 we cannot relax and stand back. This is just the beginning and we must see words turn into actions.
Anya Nanning Ramamurthy is a geography student at Lancaster University and campaigner with UK Student Climate Network London
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