COP-26 Week 2 Update

COP-26 has come to an end.  The press announced the Glasgow Climate Pact, the agreement reached at the end of the summit, along with the pledges from countries relating to reducing methane emissions, China-US cooperation, reducing deforestation, and more. The biggest disagreement in the Pact was whether to “phase out” coal, but the final document was switched to “phase down” coal, reportedly due to a last-minute demand from India.  At least we’re not agreeing to “phase up” coal (on paper at least).

For FEASTA, the most hopeful outcome was the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) by Denmark and Costa Rica on November 11.  The video of the launch event can be found here. Countries or regions joining included France, Sweden, Greenland, Wales, Quebec, andIreland!

Additional countries and states were listed as Associate Members, including Portugal, California and New Zealand, while Italy was listed as a ‘friend of BOGA’. Note the subnational participation from large oil and gas producers, the UK, Canada, and the US.  BOGA aligns with FEASTA’s and CapGlobalCarbon’s approach of the adoption of upstream caps on fossil fuel production, and for early movers to join an alliance, preferably in pairs of countries from the Global North and Global South.

Since Associate Members (who are in the “phase down” camp) have not taken the same “phase out” pledges that Full Members have, NGOs can now ask California and others to make the stronger pledge.

Youth activists played a major role in generating attention and boosting the ambition of the negotiators.

Members of FEASTA’s youth delegation, including Beth, Sarah, and Jessica took part in actions in the months leading up to the COP. It would not be surprising to find out that their protest in Dublin in September was a factor in Ireland joining as a member of BOGA. FEASTA delegate Theo sailed across the sea from Ireland to Scotland, reminiscent of Greta’s cross-Atlantic journey a few years ago, and posted this Tweet once he got there.

Theresa Rose Sebastian was featured in interviews, dating back to February 2020 regarding lowering the voting age, so that more young people can “vote climate.”  The week before COP26 she participated in this action at a TED-sponsored event in Edinburgh, which involved publicly shaming the CEO of Shell by a youth activist on stage in front of a clapping audience.

It is striking to see a young woman looking a 70 year-old white male CEO in the eye, accusing him of murder (both in Nigeria, and the Global South generally due to the climate disruption being caused by his products), and then storming off stage in disgust.  These types of actions will change norms around “accepting” upstream fossil fuel emitters in society.

FEASTA delegates Saoirse Exton and Theresa O’Donohoe were interviewed on after their return home from Glasgow.   Theresa was also interviewed before she left.

Former US President Barack Obama gave an eloquent speech at COP-26, some of which was directed at young people.  But recalling the frustrating years of his presidency’s pipeline approvals and support for fracking in the U.S., it left some observers with mixed feelings.  The climate situation is so dire that the movement is desperate for any sort of talented allies in the fight.  However, Obama’s late arrival to full-throated climate advocacy (reminiscent of Al Gore’s receiving the Nobel Prize for his “Inconvenient Truth” years after his participation as Vice President in an “all of the above” energy policy that included, yes, fossil fuels) just reinforces the idea that politicians only talk a big game when they have nothing to lose.  Who has the courage to move past “blah blah blah” (as Greta calls it) when they are still in the driver’s seat?

COP-26, and its main outcome, The Glasgow Pact, reveal shortcomings of the UN process.  It is too slow for the fast-moving climate crisis.  We were told to wait for 5 years after the Paris Agreement in order to “take stock” of the pitiful national “contributions” and we knew from the beginning it would be a sad exercise.  John Vidal, former Environment Editor at the Guardian, agrees that for those countries who want progress, it’s time to work outside the UN process, saying:

Equally, governments can take the gloves off, treat the few countries who are preventing climate action as criminals…

The youth-led Shell-shaming in Edinburgh may just be the first of many public call-outs, to change our norms around accepting upstream fossil fuel production as normal.  Critics might call it “cancel culture,” but maybe it is a step to a more institutionalized solution: “Cap & Jail.”  That might get the billionaire’s, bankers’, and hedge funds’ attention.

In the meantime, the BOGA group provides a nice template for an international alliance for an upstream cap on fossil fuel production.  If it could be paired with a carbon price on the fuels entering the economy, with revenues returned to households on an equal per capita basis, you would have hundreds of billions for “climate finance” (as it is called), the start of a world basic income, and (as FEASTA calls it) CapGlobalCarbon.

See you at COP-27!

Featured image: Scotland. Image credit: Abby Young.

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