COP26: The Future Is Happening Now. We can still fix it.

Be Part of the Change at the COP26.

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It’s happening. Extreme weather events and natural disasters, already a reality for people and countries in the Global South, are now occurring more often in Europe. This year, in the year of the COP26, we have seen floods in Germany and Belgium that have killed hundreds, and fires and heat waves in Greece, Italy and Spain. We’ve even had severe forest fires as far north as my home country of Sweden. 

The thing that scientists, such as myself, have been warning about for more than three decades – back when man-made climate change was established as fact – is happening now.

The climate emergency is not a problem for the future. It is already here. And yet, the European Union, all of its member states, and all the other countries in the world have one thing in common: they are not doing enough. This became clear once again in this year’s IPCC report. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of its sixth assessment report earlier this year, and it was a damning indictment of climate inaction. It was clear that nothing had improved since the previous report from 2014. The science has been clear for three decades, but climate policies are still insufficient. For each year without ambitious political decisions, our remaining carbon budget gets smaller. 

At 2021’s UN climate change conference (COP26), there is no time to waste

We are in an emergency situation. It is more important than ever to join forces internationally and work together to solve the biggest crisis of our time. This year’s UN climate change conference – known as COP26 – is a unique chance to put our plans into action. In a couple of days, the world’s leaders will gather in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit. This is a crucial chance to limit the damage humanity has done and pull ourselves back from the brink of devastating climate change. As a delegate for the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament at the COP26, my agenda is clear: we will bring concrete climate demands to the table and hold global players (like China and Australia) accountable for their promises and raise their ambition.

These are the Greens/EFA’s demands for the COP26 in Glasgow:

  • We have to keep the 1.5 pathway within reach. Most countries’ emissions are still rising – this trend needs to be reversed. All countries and all sectors must urgently raise their ambition. For the lives of the most affected, such as the Global South, but also big areas within Europe, the climate emergency is already here. They can’t afford failure, we can’t afford failure. The EU has a responsibility to lead the way. 
  • Raising ambition means ending the era of fossil fuels. All fossil fuel energy must remain in the past and in the ground. Phasing out coal, oil and gas energy sources must be a priority, as well as halting harmful financial flows, subsidies and investment to all fossil fuel projects. Also here, Europe has to lead by example.
  • An agreement on 5-year common timeframes. We need to have short-term targets now. We can’t push our goals further into the future. Even within the EU, there are member states calling for longer time frames for reduction targets. We can no longer afford having only long-term goals as that just pushes necessary change further into the future.
  • No double counting to ensure environmental integrity. Implementing Article 6 of the Paris Agreement should avoid all forms of double counting and ensure that no units issued under the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, can count towards existing and future nationally determined contributions. The rules also need to include guarantees for the protection of human rights.
  • Damage will be done – we need a climate safety net. Even if we reduce emissions, some negative impacts will remain unavoidable. Both political space and additional finance streams need to align to support developing countries and the challenges they will face under the aims of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage.
  • For the world to fight climate change we need to align financial flows. Read Greens/EFA MEP Bas Eickhout’s opinion on why green finance matters here.

The EU’s Climate goals: why we need to get our own house in order

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union address last month was very disheartening. When climate policy was mentioned, it regrettably became clear that the Commission considers itself done. Her answer to solving the climate crisis was that other parts of the world should do more. She referenced the latest IPCC report and claimed to be listening to science. But, listening to science means that the EU should be doing more as well. A lot more.

All EU member states have to come forward with their own increased Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) before the COP26 negotiations. NDCs establish how each country intends to reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. When comparing the NDCs put forward so far with what the science shows we should be aiming for, the gap is huge. According to the UN’s NDC Synthesis Report from September 2021, current NDCs would still lead to a 16 % increase of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (vs 2010). Science says NDCs have to be reduced by at least 45 % to remain on a pathway towards 1.5° C of global warming. Overall, current NDCs will lead to about 2.7 °C global warming by the end of the century. The EU needs to support member states in concrete action to reach those national targets for the EU to be able to keep within the Paris Agreement ambitions.

The clock is ticking to raise the EU’s ambitions in line with the Paris Agreement

The EU should be a global role model for climate action, but the fact is that, right now, the EU is not doing enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Climate Action Tracker rates the EU’s climate policy as “insufficient”. If all countries were to follow the EU’s approach, global warming would reach up to 3° C, whereas the IPCC has warned that anything over 1.5° C would be catastrophic.

No-one is denying that other countries should be stepping up their climate ambition. But, if the EU wants to be credible when we insist that China, Australia and Brazil have to do more, we must urgently get our own house in order. The fiasco of the State of the Union cannot be how the EU is perceived at COP26. The EU must take responsibility for our own climate targets before pointing fingers at others.

The Emissions Gap: why we need climate justice at the COP26 now

Rich countries are more responsible for the climate emergency than the Global South. The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest half of the world. This fact needs to be acknowledged in our climate policy. We are the main reason for the problem, after centuries of dependence on fossil energy, and it is our responsibility to fix it. 

Even more so, because poor and marginalised communities are the ones hit hardest by the devastating effects of climate change. Developed countries need to step up with finance to support the transition to a green economy in developing countries, to adapt and mitigate the effects of unavoidable climate change. Promises were made years ago that this climate finance would amount to at least 100 billion dollars a year, starting from 2020, but this goal is still far from being reached.

We also still need an agreement on the climate finance agenda after 2025, taking into account lessons learned from the failure of our last climate finance commitment. As we know that women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, we also need to build on the EU’s new strengthened Gender Action Plan, and all national climate commitments and financing need to be gender-responsive. 

The Paris Agreement: we have a plan, let’s stick to it!

Six years after the Paris Agreement climate plan was signed and ratified, there is only one country in the world that is actually on track to fulfilling the 1.5° C target, and that is The Gambia. 

To follow in its footsteps at the COP26 summit – and to actually implement the Paris Agreement – we have to finalise the Paris Rulebook. The Paris Rulebook is meant to guide countries through the steps they need to take to meet the goals in the Paris Agreement. It should lead as the transparency framework, setting common timeframes, implementing the “no double counting” of carbon markets emissions according to Article 6, as well as how to deal with loss and damage due to climate change (for example to a country’s economy, cultural heritage or public health). This was meant to be decided at COP25 in Madrid two years ago, but was postponed until now. We do not have time to postpone it once again. 

The Greens/EFA message to decision makers at COP26 is quite simple. We want the Paris Agreement to be upheld. That is not too much to ask for. Almost every country in the world says they want the same thing – but they still don’t have the climate policy needed.

What can you do to help us achieve these green goals at the COP26?

You can be part of the change! As tens of thousands of people in every big city march for climate justice, world leaders, ministers and other political delegates are getting ready to pack their bags to attend the climate conference in Glasgow, COP26. Call on them to keep the 1.5° C target within reach. Let them know we still have hope for a just and sustainable future world. Call on them to keep that hope alive.

Pär Holmgren, Greens/EFA member of European Parliament and official delegate to the COP26 in Glasgow.

Follow our daily report live from the COP in Glasgow with news and debriefs from climate activists and MEPs here.