COP26 has handed a threadbare lifeline to the world’s most vulnerable people – CAFOD

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CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy Neil Thorns, who attended the full two weeks of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, has commented on the outcome of the COP26 talks:

“COP26 is a major disappointment to CAFOD’s partners working with poor communities – it simply hasn’t delivered the urgent action or justice required. Instead, it has been pushed until 2022 to limit temperature increases to 1.5C and deliver the climate finance so desperately needed. For some this will be too late, which is simply not acceptable.

“At this critical moment, when urgent action is needed to keep us within the dangerous 1.5 degree temperature rise, the COP26 talks have come up short. We are on a road with no turning back now. The question is, are we travelling “far enough, fast enough and fairly enough” – to which the answer is no. Climate justice is not just a concept for some, it is what must be delivered.

“We need to see concrete policies that match the promises made here to make real progress on reducing emissions by 2030. Countries must come back next year with greater ambition.

“Poor communities came to Glasgow with clear asks and shouldn’t have to compromise on the compensation owed to them from the rich countries who’ve caused the devastation to their homes, livelihoods and spiritual spaces.

“Politicians have not had the honesty and courage to take responsibility for their actions. But the tide is turning. Countries at the frontline of the climate crisis are taking heart from the voices of young people and those on the streets and are pushing back on the vested interests who’ve dominated these talks for too long.

“We welcome the real progress on ending financing for fossil fuels overseas which the UK government has championed, but it’s crucial we challenge the loopholes that are buried in these pledges and hold all signatories to account.”

The latest projections are of a rise in global temperatures to 2.4C based on countries’ current 2030 pledges.

Caritas Zambia’s Musamba Mubanga, a specialist on livelihoods and climate change, told CAFOD:

“For us in Zambia, climate change is a reality, it is happening. People have lost their farmlands and livelihoods to drought and floods, yet we have contributed the least to this crisis. It is crucial to keep 1.5C alive.”

Robin Mace-Snaith, CAFOD’s Policy Lead for Climate and Energy, followed the negotiations at COP26 and gave this overall assessment on where there has been progress and where there is a lot more work to be done.

On ambition and keeping 1.5C alive:

“On present action we are heading towards warming of 2.7C, or 2.4C if countries live up to their current 2030 NDC targets (national greenhouse gas reduction plans). COP26 presented an opportunity to put us on track for 1.5C. It didn’t achieve this, but what it has done is give countries a year to do so. The parties ultimately agreed to come back within a year to enhance ambition through their NDCs. The key issue is it didn’t tell them that their NDCs must be aligned to 1.5C, so we must hope that in 2022 new NDCs will be the real deal and implementation is well on its way.”

On fossil fuels:

“This COP needed to not only close the door on coal, which was on its last legs anyway, but to deliver a clear message that ALL fossil fuels will be consigned to history.

“What we ended up with was an unprecedented step in the right direction with a call to accelerate the phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, but without a clear deadline. The weak language leaves loopholes and an option for unproven technology to be used in a way that allows business as usual for the fossil fuel sector. Civil society will have to work hard to ensure this is not exploited in the coming years.

“There are some good news stories outside of the negotiations – whether it be the countries (including our very own Wales) joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which looks to put an end date on oil and a gas production, or the UK leading others to pledge an end to support for all fossil fuels overseas equating to over $21bn, which now hopefully goes to the just energy transition and delivering electricity to the over 750m people without it.”

On finance:

“It was known before COP26 that the high-income countries had failed on their promise to deliver $100bn a year by 2020. The fight at COP26 was to come up with an actionable and agreed plan on how to get there and raise financial ambition that meets the needs of low-income countries.

“Rich countries showed their deep regret of breaking their promises but ultimately didn’t commit to compensate for this failure.

“The needs of low-income countries and communities have not been met and without finance none of the Paris Agreement goals will be achieved. Again, we are looking down the road to the next couple of years to see if countries can deliver on their promises.

“One major element of climate finance is the provision for adaptation. CAFOD stood in solidarity with vulnerable countries, in asking for the huge gap with mitigation finance to be recognised and addressed, so that 50% goes to adaptation. The commitment to double cumulative adaptation finance by 2025 is a boost to low-income countries and it is imperative this promise is not broken. We must ensure this finance is provided in grant-based finance not loans, to limit the depth of the current debt crisis. We welcome countries noting the role Special Drawing Rights can play.”

On loss and damage:

“Given countries that account for over 85% of the world’s population – around 6 billion people – came up with and agreed on a credible plan to provide new, additional and needs-based loss and damage finance and a system to deliver it, it is shocking that the rich countries – including the UK – blocked it. Given the shortcomings on mitigation and adaptation action, loss and damage is already very real. Communities that CAFOD and its partners work with are regularly experiencing destruction to their homes and livelihoods, and even loss of life. Countries have ultimately failed to deliver at COP26 on loss and damage and have kicked the can down the road to 2022. For many families on the frontlines of the climate crisis this is already too late.”

Neil Thorns concluded:

“The Catholic community has been a driving force in calling for climate justice. We will be redoubling our efforts to hold rich nations to account on ensuring that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable get the support they need.

“We are emboldened by Pope Francis’s message shared at the start of the COP26 summit: ‘We need both hope and courage. Humanity possesses the wherewithal to effect this change…’.”


CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas Internationalis. We reach out to people living in poverty with practical help, whatever their religion or culture. Help us build a world where no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need.