“The ultimate benchmark is – will countries do enough?”: expectations for COP26

1 November 2021 

COP26, the international climate negotiations currently taking place in Glasgow, has officially kicked off with world leaders giving speeches at the opening ceremony. 

We’ll be bringing you the voices on the ground throughout the next two weeks – but before we send any coverage your way on protests and actions as they unfold, we spoke to some Irish activists about what their expectations are for the conference. 

Theresa O’Donohoe, member of An Taisce Climate

For the previous COPs I’ve been at home in Ireland and wanted to know what was going on. I would get feedback from whoever I knew was there. This time I want to be a conduit for information that I pick up so that I can share it with others. I would love to feel like I was more involved in it and that I was closer to the action. 

I want to build this bridge of communication because it’s a difficult arena to get your head around. Climate change is so vast that everybody has questions and having someone there to ask those questions for you helps. 

I know that we’ve absolutely no possibility of influencing anything other than having people on the street and I think that’s the most important thing: to show that there’s solidarity and that there are people who care and that the number who do is growing. 

I also will be representing Feasta and I’ll be promoting an initiative to have the use of fossil fuels capped and taxed at the source as opposed to having them affect people at the end of the supply chain. I’ll also be pushing for a financial transaction tax with revenue going towards a global climate fund, too. 

Padraic Fogarty, Irish Wildlife Trust Campaign Officer 

While I’m attending COP, what I’m hoping is that nature will get a greater profile.

Our ongoing biodiversity crisis is generally forgotten and left behind. It needs to be central to debate because I certainly believe the crisis we face is not just a climate crisis – it is an issue of unsustainable extraction of resources that leads to all kinds of other issues. 

If we only tackle the climate issue in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, we’re going to miss an awful lot in terms of addressing the biodiversity emergency.  

Padraic spoke to us earlier this year about his podcast dedicated to the biodiversity crisis in Ireland – check “Shaping New Mountains” on Spotify to hear it in full. 

Oisin Coghlan, Friends of the Earth Ireland Director 

The actual formal negotiations of this COP are quite narrow – they’re about the Paris rulebook and I do think we need to think about how that plays with expectations. I’ve never seen a COP where the public focus, public expectation and the media coverage have been so high. I think it’s even higher than Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015. But what will matter as much is what’s happening around the COP and what the heads of State and Government will say when they’re there. 

There’s also what’s been called the Glasgow Package, which is so much more than just the outcomes. We need to see progress on climate finance because that’s essential to trust. Trust is weak at the moment between the Global North and the Global South, partly because of vaccine distribution and because the pledge of finance of $100bn from Copenhagen hasn’t been kept. So for trust it’s essential that there’s big moves on ensuring that there is adequate climate finance to help countries cope with what warming is already baked in and then their own low-carbon transition. 

There’s also been more focus around keeping fossil fuels in the ground in the lead-up to this COP. There’s been announcements around coal – which countries are stopping using coal and which ones will stop developing coal around the world, so progress on that front would be essential. There’s also talk around a Governmental alliance around oil and gas and getting out of these fuels. As Ireland has made moves in that direction, it should definitely be part of that if it’s announced. 

The actual outcome of the Paris rulebook, climate finance, fossil fuel use and of course the overall pledges of action and how they achieve the Paris climate goals – those are the benchmarks, and the ultimate benchmark is: are countries planning to do enough?

About the Author

Kayle Crosson