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That was the COP that was

The COP26 logo

COP26: the 26th "Conference of the Parties" - of the states that have signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

THE COP26 climate conference concluded around 8pm yesterday - Saturday 13 November, over 24 hours over time - with a last-minute compromise. The event in Glasgow, Scotland was billed as a last chance for the United Nations climate process to have a useful effect on global heating. Following it from afar showed what a thorough briefing the London Freelance Branch September event on reporting climate change had been. Reports such as Fiona Harvey in the Guardian carefully going through changes to the draft agreement paralleled our speakers' brief in every respect.

Responses to the deal seem, at first glance, to divide between those who are closely familiar with international negotiations and others. The COP26 Coalition denounced the deal as "utter betrayal": "The rich refused to do their fair share, with more empty words on climate finance and turning their back on the poorest who are facing a crisis of Covid coupled with economic and climate apartheid - all caused by the actions of the richest."

No international agreement can be made, however, unless all countries agree to it. Weary attendees of multiple diplomatic conferences conclude that this one was less awful than was probable and that - crucially - nothing seems to have happened that closes off further necessary after-the-eleventh-hour decisions at COP27 in Egypt next year.

One of our September speakers, Jess Shankleman, summed up what it's like being there and reading the runes:


Xie, Kerry and Timmermans are having their photo taken together and smiling in the plenary room. That, surely, is a good sign that we will be asleep at a decent hour tonight. #COP26

And the Freelance has some homework to set for really close observers. There was, apparently, some progress on fleshing out Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which aims to create a global regulated carbon market. This seems, so far, somewhat under-reported, likely because it's so eye-wateringly technical. On the one hand we have those protesters who see the word "market" and respond, correctly, that capitalism is the problem; on the other, those who say that a well-regulated pricing mechanism could actually, in the world as we find it, end fossil fuel extraction.

Protest in London

Meanwhile, Waltham Forest Trades Council, to which London Freelance Branch is affiliated, was heavily involved in the push for a stronger agreement, Mick Holder reports.

On 6 November trade unionists joined campaigners in London, Glasgow and around the world in calling on world leaders to act now to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The London protest

The London event on 6 November 2021

COP26 in Glasgow is the latest in the series of meetings where world leaders debate climate change and possible actions. Tens of thousands of climate change activists from around the world gathered outside to tell those present that their efforts so far have not done enough to prevent catastrophic climate change, to demand immediate preventative action and for the change to a sustainable, clean, healthy future to be just and fair to all around the world. Trade unions are particularly concerned change will be imposed and those affected are likely to be ignored and dumped on the scrap heap which is why they are calling for unions, workers and others affected to be fully involved in what is known as a just transition to a better future.

At one of the counter-events to COP26 a People's Tribunal made up of campaigners and former COP negotiators found world leaders guilty of multiple climate crimes. These included failure to tackle the root causes of climate change, failure to regulate corporations and failure to address global injustice. This opinion was widely reflected by other campaigner organisations around the world.

Whilst COP26 has produced some headline grabbing promises everyone accepts they are nowhere near enough to tackle the problems we face, and the absence of major polluters Russia and China from the event does not bode well. Add this to the fact that even previous climate commitments have not been met or acted on fully it is no wonder Greta Thunberg and others accuse world leaders of "Blah, blah, blah" when they should be acting with the urgency needed.

The Green Jobs Alliance has recognised these failings and recently said trade unionists should organise at work to push for action by their employers and government after the COP ends: see here.