City Cllr Alice Gilderdale (Lead Cllr for Climate Change)
The 26th annual Conference of Parties (COP26) is currently being held between the 31st October and 12th November in Glasgow. This is a chance for climate leaders from across the world to come together to discuss and commit to solutions to fight the climate crisis. As host country, the UK has been claiming to be a climate leader, however it is very clear that we still have a long way to go. Historically, COPs have been dominated by rich countries and international financial institutions, acting as echo chambers of the status quo. Additionally, their repeated failure to produce ambitious agreements, while collaborating with the most polluting industries highlights the one-sided nature of the convention. On the other hand, marginalised people from across the globe – indigenous groups, workers, mining-affected neighbourhoods, migrants, Black and brown communities fighting for racial justice, women and gender non-conforming people – are those who will be the first to feel the effects of the climate crisis. Until the COPs truly represent the people at the frontlines of this crisis, it is clear their negotiations will come to little. Sadly, COP26 seems to be falling at the same stumbling blocks as the previous failed conventions. COPs have overwhelmingly been held in global North countries, making attendance inaccessible for many people in the global South who cannot afford the huge amount of money needed for long-distance travel, food and accommodation during the two weeks. Additionally, activists from countries where COVID vaccines aren’t as readily available have been unable to attend due to the UK’s strict vaccine regulations. On the other hand, IETA (which represents fossil fuel companies) has a delegation over 100-strong this year, while civil society has been unable to get into plenaries, and although 35,000 badges have been sold, the COVID capacity of the venue is only 10,000. Similarly, free travel passes have been handed out to delegates coming from across the world, while people who work and live in the city are questioning why free or subsidised travel is impossible to provide every day. These reports make clear the reasons why any climate solutions must be built from the demands of those facing the most severe climate catastrophe. However, although the negotiations have been going on behind closed doors, campaigners have been fighting for solutions which do centre climate justice, social justice and a just transition. The Artivist Network has opened a space in the city to create banners and posters for climate activists, activists have been standing up to fossil fuel companies in solidarity with displaced communities, calls have been made for global North countries to repay climate debt, the Indigenous Environmental Network has coordinated protests against false climate solutions, striking Glasgow bin workers have declared that climate justice is industrial justice and across the UK, people will be joining in a national day of action and marching on Saturday 6th November. While the negotiations may remain stale and insufficient, there is clear hope for a future in the alternative spaces carved out by climate justice, civil society and frontline campaign groups. It is in these spaces – rather than in the official negotiations – that a vision for social, environmental and economic justice can truly be created.
County Cllr Hilary Cox Condron. Vice Chair of COSMIC (communities, social mobility and inclusion):
“Is this how our story is due to end – a tale of the smartest species doomed by… failing to see the bigger picture?” Asks David Attenborough. Speaking the words we are all thinking…I feel so torn trying to write some of my thoughts about COP26. As Johnson flew in – the week Sunak announced halving the tax on domestic flights – and Amazon founder, billionaire Jeff Bezos took to the stand, I feel so resigned to the hypocrisy, green-wash, hot air and back-patting, but also so desperate for the energy of hope, solidarity, calls for change, and action that COP26 has pulled in to focus.There is no climate justice without social justice. There can not be ‘profit at any price’. We need economic restructure – system change – with equality and fairness at the heart of it. In the words of the economist John Maynard Keynes (son of Cambridge’s first female city councillor): ‘the difficulty lies not in the new ideas but in escaping the old ones, which ratify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.” We need to be brave, to nurture our creativity and imaginations, innovation and vision for the future, and we need to stand in solidarity, supporting each other shoulder-to-shoulder, as we demand an ecologically safe and Just economy from our governments and world leaders. Because time is running out.