On the seventh day, God rested…’ and the 7th of November was a Sunday, traditionally a day of rest for some. But it was Day Eight of COP26, and apart from the national delegates to the formal negotiations, and the participants in the UN Side Events, who were having ‘a rest day ahead of the second week of negotiations’, it was the Day One of the the four-day People’s Summit for Climate Justice, organised by the COP26 Coalition, a UK-based civil society coalition mobilising around climate justice during COP26. Its intention is to bring people together from across the world to discuss, learn and strategize for system change. It is particularly concerned to foreground those whose voices are not being hear enough, those who are excluded from the top tables. Indigenous communities make up 6% of global population, but protect 80% of the earth’s biodiversity. They have just a handful of official delegate places. This is crucial given the rather disgraceful fact that there are more delegates representing the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, even the largest.

The People’s Summit has organised hundreds of in-person and online events, with the following demands:

  • No More Cooking the Books: No to Fossil Fuels, Net-zero and False Solutions
  • Rewire the System: Start the Justice Transition Now
  • Global Climate Justice: Reparations and Redistribution to Indigenous Communities and the Global South

Among the Coalition members is the Climate Psychology Alliance, and one of my house guests this week is Jennifer Uchendu, from Lagos, Nigeria, who is sponsored by them and taking part in their events. Jennifer is the founder of SustyVibes, a network of environmental youth activists who champion climate action across Africa through school-based educational programmes and empowerment projects. They champion policy changes in Africa, identify and promote responsibly created projects, and facilitate eco-feminism and sustainability projects.

As a social enterprise, they create sustainability plans for organisations looking to reduce waste and become more environmentally conscious. They also identify CSR (Corporate Social Responsibilty) opportunities for local and global organsiations.

A graduate in bio-chemistry, Jennifer started off by volunteering in environmental organisations in Nigeria, and ended up by founding SustyVibes to particularly speak to young people. It was her concern for the mental health issues for youth resulting from climate change that led to her involvement with the Climate Psychology Alliance. Jennifer is in Glasgow with her husband Bernard, who is an environmental photographer, and it’s a pleasure to have them stay with me; they seem to be adjusting to the Glasgow weather, having left Lagos in 32C, and arrived in Glasgow at 6C. It’s such a privilege to be able to share and learn in this way; I know others in Glasgow are also appreciating the chance through the COP26 Homestay Network.

In other news, the UK headlines have moved on from Glasgow and the crises of the planet, and are back getting excited about sleaze in the government once again. And a new environmental survey has found that citizens of ten wealthy countries were unlikely to change their lifestyle habits to save the planet. A detailed look at the survey will probably raise questions about the nature of polling, and of headline writing; or perhaps the respondents were all old.

And the great and the good of Glasgow, religious and civic, gathered in Glasgow Cathedral to pray for COP26. During the service, David Coleman rang a bell, commemorating Adomnan’s Law of the Innocents, (Adomnan was an Abbot of Iona, and St Columba’s biographer) which prohibited the killing of women and children in conflict, and declared it to be a crime. The Law didn’t work, but it was a nice try!

– Kathy Galloway

Kathy Galloway is a writer, activist and practical theologian. She has worked for the Iona Community, Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty. She lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

Photo of Jennifer and Bernard ©

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