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COP26 in Glasgow: A Green perspective

Oras Tynkkynen

European Green Party Committee Member

Terhi Lehtonen

State Secretary of the Finnish Ministry of Environment

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COP26 in Glasgow: A Green perspective

Climate Campaigner Rheanna Johnston is in conversation with European Green Party Committee Member Oras Tynkkynen and Terhi Lehtonen, State Secretary of the Finnish Ministry of Environment. Recorded at COP26, they discuss the climate summit negotiations, and what actions Green leaders are taking to tackle the climate crisis.

Green leaders gathered on 31 October -12 November in Glasgow for the UNFCCC’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), which is the climate summit that coordinates the global response to the climate crisis.

This year’s COP was the biggest ever and addressed some of the issues left unsolved in the 2015 Paris Agreement, such as the global carbon market.

Some of the most debated issues included international climate finance, increasing the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and phasing out fossil fuels.

For the first time, over 100 Greens including young climate activists and members of the Global South were part of the observer delegations, and 7 Green climate ministers were part of the negotiations.

The Green Hub in Glasgow

We hosted the Green Hub in Glasgow with the Green European Foundation (GEF) and the Scottish Green Party, welcoming over 1000 people from over 40 different countries to our events. Through the Hub, we facilitated cross-border cooperation and exchanges in the ecosystem of Greens – from the Scottish Greens, to the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG), the Global Young Greens (GYG), the Global Greens, and the Green European Foundation (GEF)!

Bringing together civil society and decision makers was more important than ever during what has been termed the ‘most exclusionary’ COP. Youth activists and actors from the Global South, as well as civil society observers were given only limited access to negotiations.

It was also noted by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) that more than 500 delegates in the negotiations were linked to the fossil fuel industry – a bigger delegation than that of any other country.

At the Green Hub, diverse actors such as activists, academics and politicians came together to discuss vital issues like reshaping our global economies, food sovereignty, recognising ecocide, climate justice, and making the polluters pay. Green local leaders also unveiled ambitious climate policies and plans as well as shared tried and tested solutions that were successful in their own towns and cities.

Marching for climate action!

Green leaders and activists took part in climate marches organized by Fridays For Future (FFF) and the COP26 Coalition on the Global Day of Action for Climate. They included Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion; Patrick Harvey, Minister for Active Mobility and Zero Carbon buildings; Mar García, Secretary-General of the European Greens; Thomas Waitz, Green MEP and Co-Chair of the European Greens; and Committee Member Oras Tynkkynen as well as our young Greens, staff and members. On Friday, Tynkkynen pushed for more urgency and ambition:

“We are moving in the right direction, but the thing is, we are running out of time, and we cannot just wait for 2050 or 2030. We need to cut emissions today as we speak.”

Co-Chairs Thomas Waitz and Evelyne Huytebroeck also met with climate activists Elizabeth Wathuti (Kenya), Lola Segers (Belgium), Dylan Hamilton (Scotland) and Janmejai Tiwari (India), as well as with indigenous leaders from Anmiga to hear their concerns and collaborate on climate justice. Thomas Waitz urged activists to keep up the pressure. He voiced how climate activists continue to push the European Union to act on climate:

“The biggest political force in Europe has been the climate movement, because it brought climate into the political debate.”

What’s in the Glasgow Climate Pact?

The commitments and initiatives announced in Glasgow would, if fully implemented, allow the world to limit global heating to below two degrees. This is a significant drop from 3-4°C but does not limit heating to 1.5°C as enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

Here are some of the pledges announced during this climate summit:

  • More than 130 countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Brazil, have pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030
  • The global methane pledge, signed by more than 100 countries, aims to curb methane emissions by 30% by 2030
  • India’s Prime Minister Modi announced that India would aim for net-zero emissions by 2070
  • More than 40 countries have committed to phasing out coal power: wealthy nations in the 2030s, and 2040s globally
  • Scotland doubled its modest yet first-of-a-kind funding proposal for loss and damage from £1 to £2 million

The answer to all these questions lies in the long-standing unhealthy relationship that governments have with the pharmaceutical industry.

This year, there has been more focus on adaptation and finance, with countries committing to at least doubling adaptation finance by 2025. The $100b pledge made at COP21 by high-income countries in Copenhagen to support low-income countries has still not been met. The latest text urges countries to meet this goal and “re-emphasizes the need for scaled up financial resources to take into account the needs of those countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.” Low-income countries, and in particular small island states, have also called for more loss and damage finance.

Caroline Lucas emphasised the need for equity and the vital role of the Greens in achieving it:

“We know that $100b still hasn’t been forthcoming, and loss and damage hasn’t been front and centre as it should be. (…) The voices of the Global South and the debate about reparations need to be heard loud and clear, and that is not happening unless Greens and activists are putting that on the agenda.”

In terms of NDCs, the national plans including targets on emissions cuts, countries will now report yearly on their progress, rather than every 5 years. Countries have therefore been asked to “revisit and strengthen” 2030 climate plans next year in an attempt at accelerating climate action.

For the first time ever, fossil fuels feature in the agreement. The scope, however, is limited to ‘unabated coal’ and ‘inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’ rather than calling for a phase out with a concrete timeline. In response, many have joined the Beyond Oil & Coal Alliance; a new alliance that commits to phasing out oil and gas production. This includes Ireland and Sweden, where Greens are in government.

From the European to the local level, Green leaders are fighting to keep the 1.5°C goal alive

COP26 enables multilateralism and creates an important space for dialogue. It crucially puts together global agreements through which we can hold governments accountable and build global consensus. But as Greens we know that we are still far from closing the 2030 emissions gap and that it is not enough. We have yet to see concrete pathways for announced pledges. That’s why we will keep up the pressure for the implementation of these commitments in the next months and years.

In the words of Martin Ogindo, Party Leader, Green Congress of Kenya (GCK):

“We are a community of Greens who are holding the biggest responsibility on this planet because we are the custodians of the sustainability of this planet. It is a huge task for us. But I want to encourage you – each action counts. My best moment was joining the march and realising how loud our combined voices can be, and how concise our demands can be.”

As Greens, we may not have the majority, but we fight for climate ambition wherever we lead – whether at the city, regional or governmental level. We know that tackling the climate crisis requires daily efforts, and that every fraction of a degree of warming counts. Lorna Slater, Scottish Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, emphasised the power of local leaders in the climate fight:

“We don’t have to wait for Boris Johnson or Joe Biden to get together – all the cities, the American states, all the other non-state actors, we can leap ahead. They don’t have to be the limit of our ambition.”

Evelyne Huytebroeck, Co-Chair of the European Greens, also stated:

“On the local level, both big cities and rural municipalities, and the regional level have a role to play in the daily fight to address climate change. Ambitious policies are already put in place in some of them, especially ones ruled by the Greens. Green local decision-makers have shown their added-value by implemented policies in mobility, housing, energy, urban planning, waste and water management, agriculture, and education. These successes need to be shared and replicated as much as possible around the globe.”

We are also taking climate action back to the EU, where Green MEPs are pushing for a more sustainable and fair Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), working on adapting the EU Taxonomy (the rules for defining sustainable activities) to exclude gas and nuclear, and concretely advancing deforestation and nature files so that we can protect biodiversity.

Green leaders will continue the work outside of COP26 to end the fossil fuel era and make sure that we have a just transition to a fair and green future!

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