COP26 progress – what are Christian groups saying?

* Updated 16 November 2021 *

An agreement was finally reached at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, which has now ended.

Here we outline how the churches and Christian groups are responding:

16 November 2021

Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich and the Church of England’s lead bishop for the environment, and Olivia Graham, the Bishop of Reading, have spoken at the conclusion of COP:

‘At COP we called for keeping global warming to below 1.5 degrees, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and securing finance for the world’s most vulnerable people who are already effected by climate breakdown.

‘Progress was made in all these areas, plus cutting methane emissions and halting deforestation. We were particularly inspired to hear powerful testimonies from young people and representatives of indigenous peoples.

‘We must now keep up the moral pressure so that pledges are urgently turned into measurable action’.

You can read the full statement on the Church of England website.

15 November 2021

The Climate Sunday coalition, the UK’s broadest based Christian initiative on climate change in the run up to COP26, said that while there have been some welcome agreements reached in Glasgow at COP26, the outcomes of the conference on the whole fell short of what was needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. It urges the UK government to show moral leadership and to take bolder action at home on the climate crisis after COP26. Read the full statement on the Climate Sunday website.

A Rocha UK said COP26’s ultimate success or failure will depend on what happens next, but COP26 failed to deliver on its two most important objectives: achieving a level of greenhouse gas reduction pledges which would equate with keeping global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees above the pre industrial average; and delivering on the past promise to provide $100bn a year (by 2020) to help developing countries go green and adapt to climate change. Read the full statement on the A Rocha UK website.

Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK, said (via Twitter) that COP results are rarely as simple as ‘success’ or ‘failure’ and points to a clear summary from one of the UK’s top climate policy academics Michael Jacobs (also via Twitter).

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, The Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have issued a statement following the conclusion of the Glasgow COP26:

‘Significant new statements have been made at the summit in Glasgow. Most government delegations accept that the sense of urgency is greater than it was six years ago at Paris. But ultimately the summit has not delivered. All governments must agree on the necessary actions to avoid 1.5 degrees of warming. The failure of all parties at COP26 to unequivocally support this higher ambition with funding and emission reductions is an injustice towards those whose livelihoods have already been devastated by climate change.’

For the full statement, please see the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) website.

CAFOD said countries must show greater ambition at COP27 in 2022.

Neil Thorns, CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy, said:

‘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.

‘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.’

See the CAFOD website for the full response.

Christian Aid comments that ‘1.5C is alive but it’s on life support’.

Amanda Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, said:

‘Rich nations have kicked the can down the road and with it the promise of the urgent climate action people on the frontline of this crisis need. After two weeks of negotiations, the voices of those experiencing the harsh impacts of climate change have largely been excluded and not been heeded.

‘Throughout COP26, people of faith have united with activists from the Global South, feminists, youth and indigenous people to demand climate justice. Our movement has never been stronger and this must be the legacy from Glasgow to keep hope alive.’

For the full comment, please see the Christian Aid website.

The ECCR said that COP26 is a step forward but not far enough:

‘Now COP26 is over we cannot return to business as usual. Each of us has a part to play in taking action to address the climate emergency. Churches and Christians can consider how we bank, save, invest and spend in more climate friendly ways’. You can read the full statement on the ECCR website.

Quakers in Britain said that COP26 has delivered tiny steps forward when giant leaps are needed and ‘this is particularly unjust for people in the Global South who are feeling the first and worst impacts of the climate crisis, despite being least responsible for causing it.’ Read the full statement on the Quakers in Britain website.

12 November 2021

Faith leaders are calling for urgent action at COP26.

They say the current negotiation texts fail on 3 main points: there is progress on mitigation, but there is limited reference to the action needed to address increasing climate impacts; the current text fails to deliver a separate mechanism to deliver action on Loss and Damage and does not provide any realistic path to new finance; and there is no confidence that the overdue pledge of $100 billion a year in support for poorer countries will be delivered, and the commitment on adaptation, as part of that finance pledge, falls significantly short.

They are asking for world leaders at COP26: to recognise the urgency of the crisis and to encourage countries to come forward annually at each COP with new ambition announcements that exceed their current NDC targets; to address Loss and Damage through a separate and additional funding stream and to make it a permanent COP agenda item; and for richer governments to fulfil their promises and deliver the $100 billion promised for 2020 and every year up to 2025, split 50/50 between mitigation and adaptation, and as grants not loans.

Those who have signed the statement include: Fr Ioan Sauca, Acting General Secretary, The World Council of Churches; Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, General Secretary, ACT Alliance; Jack Palmer-White, Anglican Communion’s Representative to the UN; Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church;  Jim, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; Quakers in Britain; Jude Levermore, Head of Mission, The Methodist Church in Britain; John Arnold, Bishop of Salford; Bishop Stephen Wright, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham; Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich; Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading and Cannon Giles Goddard, Co-Founder Faith for the Climate.

For more details see the Christian Aid website.

11 November 2021

Many Christian groups, as part of The Climate Coalition, have joined a social media campaign asking Boris Johnson to push leaders to keep temperature rises below 1.5c.

CAFOD‘s Director of Advocacy, Neil Thorns, says: ‘Announcements have been made about keeping 1.5 alive, phasing out coal, deforestation and ending finance for fossil fuels. This is good. Some of these commitments are new and with deadlines of this year and next year for stopping funding fossil fuels overseas – turning the tide on government money going to invest in coal, oil and gas. But others have deadlines in the future and are repackaged from earlier announcements. For communities living with the reality of climate change, it’s the implementation of these things that is critical. We need concrete policies that are quickly turned into action immediately if we are to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.’

Christian Aid says it is the first time a COP text outlines the phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsidies, but there’s lots of work that needs to be done on the finance side for poorer countries. More detail is needed on ramping up emissions reductions and there is a lack of urgency with much clearer timetables needed on cutting greenhouse gasses. Christian Aid is calling on other wealthy countries to follow Scotland’s leadership on climate finance, after the Scottish Government announced on 11 November 2021 further increases in funding for loss and damage, and climate justice.

Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK, said the draft agreement revealed the ‘yawning gap’ between what needs to be agreed at the UN’s COP26 summit, and what is currently on offer, in an article in Christian Today. Andy Lester, Head of Conservation at A Rocha UK, says that while China and the USA have agreed to cooperate on methane, CO2 and green energy over the next 5 years, the agreement lacks a roadmap.

Quakers in Britain said (via Twitter) that the draft agreement is disastrously weak and would abandon the world’s poorest to climate breakdown. The church supports the Climate Vulnerable Forum for a call for a Glasgow Emergency Pact to provide finance and require rich countries to update their emission reduction plans every year. An open letter to heads of the delegations at COP26 has also been signed, among others, by CAFOD, Christian Aid, SCIAF and Tearfund. Olivia Hanks, Economics and Sustainability Programme Manager, says there are 4 things that COP26 still needs to include: setting up a loss and damage fund; meet climate finance targets based on need; unite to rapidly phase out fossil fuels; and ensure fair shares in emissions reductions.

SCIAF Advocacy Manager, Geraldine Hill, says that COP has been a mixed bag, and the last frantic hours of negotiation will be absolutely crucial to delivering a strong outcome – while good on ambition, concrete implementation measures are still lacking and many developing countries are very frustrated that the 26th meeting of the COP will again fail to deliver justice for them.

Updates on COP26

Please see our COP26 page for news, background information and details of events relating to the UN COP26 climate summit.

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