Fairtrade expresses concerns over COP26 results, branding them a ‘cop out’ on climate change goals

Glasgow, Scotland - October 31 2021: Alok Sharma, President for COP26 and UK Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, addressed journalists on the first day of COP26 (pic Shutterstock/Paul Adepoju)

Fairtrade joined environmental groups in expressing concerns over the UN’s COP26 global climate summit, labelling the event’s claimed gains with agreed policies as ‘a cop out’ on its prime goal of urgently cutting global warming, reports Neill Barston.

The key event hosted in Scotland came to an end in Glasgow at the weekend, with its president Alok Sharma, stating there had been a ‘fragile win,’ as an 11th hour deal was sealed by more than 130 world leaders in attendance during its extensive discussions.

Despite the UK government cabinet minister hailing the two-week summit as a success for environmental targets, many of its international delegates were left with a sense of disappointment that it had not delivered with a tangible timeline for its core goals.

“I wouldn’t described what we did yesterday as a failure. It’s a historic achievement. We kept 1.5 (climate change goal) in reach,” Sharma told the BBC in the wake of the event’s closure, after having apologised to the conference that the final agreed version of the text was not as far reaching as many had hoped.

Among the event’s highlights was a reported pledge to accelerate progress on 2030 emissions cutting targets within the next year – though no mandatory requirements were confirmed, drawing concerns from delegates including representatives of Fairtrade.

The global movement had presented a petition on behalf of 1.8 million farmers, including those within the cocoa sector, stating that those working on the frontline of the climate change crisis must be recognised and given greater support, but expressed concerns that its pleas had not been sufficiently responded to by the event.

Notably, the summit’s core ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, backed by a major pledge to phase out fossil fuel use also failed to materialise, and drew a response from environmental organisations including Greenpeace. The campaign group said the language of the agreement in Glasgow was framed as ‘a polite request’ which it did not believe was sufficient to avert climate rises of 2.4 degrees, impacting significantly on communities around the world, including those serving core food and drink supply chains.

Furthermore, concerns were also raised from delegates surrounding a pact at COP26 on addressing the worst form of pollution through phasing out coal power was watered down at the last moment after pressure from India and China. This was instead only agreed a move to ‘phase down coal use,’ with no commitment on timelines for delivering such a landmark policy.

Deal on financial aid falls short

Significantly, an international agreement over a decade ago for richer western nations to pay poorer countries $100 billion a year to aid with making the transition to cleaner energy economies also failed to be achieved. However, a reduced package of funding amounting to a sum of $40 billion was agreed at the summit, which will assist nations with delivering on climate change target goals by 2025.

Responding to COP26 results, Fairtrade’s Head of Delegation for COP26 and Kenyan flower farmer, Mary Kinyua, said: “This COP’s outcome is in many ways a cop out, a frustrating conclusion to this summit filled with hope that we would see a start to the healing of our world.

“As farmers ourselves, representing 1.8 million Fairtrade farmers and workers across the world already living with the devastating realities of climate change, we came to Glasgow in good faith, hoping our world leaders would listen to our voices and keep their promises. Our message – of ensuring the planet temperature rise remains within 1.5 degrees and that the costs of addressing a changing climate would not be unfairly placed on those of us who did the least to cause it – could not have been clearer.

“It is hard to understand why the prospect of a 2.4 degree temperature rise has not driven world governments to deliver on the promises made in Paris. It is hard to understand why the climate finance promise of $100 billion per year is still outstanding. It is painful to see that no commitment at all has been made to pay for the unavoidable loss and damage faced by our communities.

Of course we have seen some welcome moves. The speed at which our climate is changing makes it vital that governments will be asked to raise their commitments again in Cairo next year, rather than waiting for another five years. Promises on deforestation are critical for millions like me for whom farming is a way of life, and the announcement of a ‘Just Rural Transition Fund’ is an encouraging move. The key will be ensuring these new funds are delivered as promised, and that they actually reach farmers and our communities in low-income countries, and reaches them swiftly.

Fairtrade farmers and citizens of the global Fairtrade movement will not let this stand. We are already working to tackle the climate crisis on the frontline in our communities, with the knowledge and love of the land that we have as farmers. And we know that there are Fairtrade buyers and businesses and supporters who will stand with us, working alongside us day to day to do what we can and calling for action until promises are finally kept. We are doing our part, it’s time for the leaders to do theirs.”

Her frustrations were shared by other key climate organisations including Greenpeace, as well as Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg. She had previously been invited to speak at COP24 in Poland, but received no formal invite for this year’s event.

She expressed disappointment that there had been no firm agreements for a timetable for delivering on fossil fuel elimination, stating that it had failed to attain the targets that it had set itself in preventing catastrophic levels of climate change.

Taking to Twitter to state her issues, the 18 year-old, who has continued a global mission to raise awareness of climate change, believed there had not been sufficient action in Glasgow. She said: “Now, as COP26 is coming to an end, beware of a tsunami of ‘greenwashing’ and media spin to somehow frame the outcome as ‘good,’ ‘hopeful’ or ‘a step in the right direction.’

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