Early yesterday morning, while returning from a brief shopping trip to my local Coop for Lorne sausage, black pudding and potato scones (my Nigerian guests were very keen to try a traditional full Scottish breakfast, and seemed unconvinced by my assurance that the real traditional Scottish breakfast was porridge made with oatmeal, water and a little salt, without added sugar, bananas or peanut butter, even when I offered to make some for them), I stood for ages waiting to cross the street, while a long procession of sports utility vehicles (SUV’s, also known as Chelsea tractors) negotiated the narrow road while dropping their children off at the gates of Glasgow Academy.

So it was interesting to hear in the Glasgow news when I got home that a number of these vehicles, so unsuitable for a busy, built-up city area, had had their tyres let down by environmental protesters. According to the International Energy Agency, since 2010 SUVs have been the second-largest contributors to the increase in global CO2 emissions, second only to the power sector. Depressingly, their market share has grown to 40% of worldwide new light-vehicle sales by the end of 2020. Truly there is a long way to go!

By Friday, when COP26 was due to complete its discussions, it was very clear that the talking was going to go on through the night. Other programmes are pretty much over, and many delegates and climate activists have gone, though there is still a hard core of protesters outside the Blue Zone. Most of my guests have gone too; Manon to France, to finish editing her COP26 films, Jennifer and Bernard beginning their long journey back to Lagos. Only Mathilde remains; as her organisation’s Communications lead, she is here till the bitter end, whenever that might be, and however bitter it is.

As was probably predictable, the areas of contention (and there are many of these) have focussed down increasingly to two: issues around fossil fuels, divestment and the ending of subsidies to oil, gas and coal; and issues around climate transition finance, including loss and damage compensation.

Faith leaders from across the world-Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist and others – led by sisters and brothers from the Global South, have released a signed call for urgent and ambitious global action to deliver justice for the most vulnerable people and communities. This is what they say:

  • The current texts remain worryingly unbalanced. While there is progress on mitigation, it is shocking that there is limited reference to action needed to address increasing climate impacts.
  • Simply referencing Loss and Damage (L&D) in the draft decision text without identifying any concrete action is offensive and immoral. The current text not only fails to deliver a separate mechanism to deliver action on Loss and Damage, it also does not provide any realistic path to new finance.
  • The texts on finance fail to provide confidence that the overdue pledge of $100 billion a year in support for poorer countries will be delivered. The commitment on adaptation, as part of that finance pledge, falls significantly short. The current text does not address the fact that most public finance comes in loans, which are adding to the burden of debt for climate-vulnerable countries, nor the challenges on access.

The action we now need:

World leaders must now step up and deliver a clear, actionable text that strengthens previous agreements and puts those living on the frontline of the climate crisis at its heart.

We call on world leaders at COP26 to preserve all of God’s Creation by:

  • Recognising the urgency of this crisis, including language in the text that encourages all countries, but especially major emitters, to come forward annually at each COP with new ambition announcements that exceed their current NDC targets.
  • Calling for all Parties to address L&D through mobilising a separate and additional funding stream separate to finance for mitigation and adaptation; making L&D a permanent COP agenda item; and ensuring appropriate capacity and finance to support the full operationalization of the Santiago Network by COP27.
  • Richer governments fulfilling their promises and delivering the $100 billion promised for 2020 and every year up to 2025. This must be a 50/50 split between mitigation and adaptation, must be in the form of grants and not loans, and address access issues so the finance reaches those who need it most.

In the dying moments of COP26, these words of prayer from the Wild Goose Resource Group seems appropriate:

O, children of earth,
you who have witnessed my love,
how little I witness of yours!

In silence I wait;
I plead and I wait.
Do not grieve me.
Let there be light from this darkness!
Let me witness your love!

I long for that different day.

– 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 © William Gibson

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