COP26: Observations & Lamentations

By Rick Faw

Last week, I joined up with A Rocha colleagues from home and abroad as well as the Christian Climate Observers Program (CCOP) to attend the climate change talks in Glasgow. This was a major event in the global effort to avoid the worst consequences of human-caused climate change.

I hope to offer a more personal reflection at another time, but for now, here are some key takeaways from COP26.

There’s an awful lot at stake in these negotiations.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of limiting the human and non-human suffering due to a changing climate and yet vested interests and entrenched mindsets consistently erode political will to take action commensurate with the data. This tension makes the official deliberations painstaking. And yet, we heard from lesser developed countries that, as flawed as the UNFCCC process might be, there is no alternative for them. At least here, these countries can express their concern and call upon those with more wealth and power to act for the common good.

It was a gift to be a part of the Christian Climate Observer Program.

This was the first time ARC was an official partner on this joint effort that facilitates a way for average people to gain access to the discussions. The quality, character, and commitment of the people I met was remarkably high. These folks are doing amazing work and it was a treat to rub shoulders with them for a while. For instance, check out this op-ed from Nate and Rich. Or listen to this interview with Phil. See what Maria Virgina is up to. Or be inspired by Rachel and YCCN’s audacious endeavour. The world needs more people like these.

There is a bigger focus on Nature-based Solutions.

COP26 profiled Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to climate change so much more than in the past. Colleagues from around the world have drafted a paper that articulates the links between the work that A Rocha does in biodiversity conservation and the implications for climate change. For instance, it was especially heartening to observe the A Rocha Ghana team advocate for the Atewa forest with such passion and insight and dedication. Atewa beautifully encapsulates a universal dynamic: mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity, and sustaining human health are inextricably intertwined in both causes and solutions.

In the end, the results of COP26 are mixed at best.

While real progress was made in a few respects, the pace of progress continues to be frustratingly inadequate to meet the scale of the problem. It seems that too often those of us with wealth and power are unwilling to shoulder our share of the responsibility for alleviating the current and future suffering of brothers and sisters around the world.

We may well echo the Psalmist who brings lament to God and asks, “How long, Lord?”

The Blue Zone, a restricted access area where negotiations took place. (Photo: Kari Miller)

The table markers for very many stakeholders, stacked when unused between talks. (Photo: Rick Faw)

Keep 1.5°C and the climate conversation alive

  1. For more information about the climate meetings in Glasgow, check out the daily CCOP newsletters published during COP26.
  2. To learn more about how to communicate about climate change, we highly recommend Katharine Hayhoe’s new book “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World”.
  3. To explore a creative way to learn about the essentials of climate change, investigate the tool Climate Fresk.