COP26 recently finished, where global leaders met to (supposedly) work out how to avoid dangerous climate change. To keep us all safe, our dear leaders needed to come together and collectively commit to drastic action to prevent anything more than a 1.5 C global temperature rise. Everyone was hoping the incontrovertible scientific evidence would catalyse progress.
But did our leaders deliver?
Let’s cut to the case – Alok Sharma, the United Kingdom’s cabinet minister who presided over COP26, said, “we have kept 1.5C alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”
A deal between all the countries at COP26 was made, but headlines and climate scientists still tell us that 1.5C will be exceeded, unless the promises made by leaders to meet again next year with stronger climate targets are kept. Australia, along with Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia tried to rule out this 2022 revisit.
Australia’s continued shame.
“We have kept 1.5C alive. But, its pulse is weak and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.” - Alok Sharma, President COP26
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government have (again) put our country to shame on the global stage with regards to the climate. ScoMo brought no new policies to COP26 and still refuses to increase our woefully inadequate 2030 carbon goals. Australia’s COP26 pavilion even went so far as to tout fossil fuels as a natural solution. Really. You can’t write satire this good. Except this is not satire.
Currently, Australian policy sees most emissions reductions pushed back until after 2030, which the best available data tells us is too late. A lot of these cutbacks are magically estimated to be made through technology that doesn’t exist yet, with a reliance on businesses and consumers to change without government mandates to nudge (read: legislate) behaviour.
Basically, ScoMo’s plan is that he has no plan. But the climate crisis isn’t coming to a head in this election cycle, so who cares? And this is apparently leadership.
Speaking truth to power.
“The needs of the world’s vulnerable people have been sacrificed on the altar of the rich world’s selfishness” - Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa
As bad as that is, Australia is not alone in refusing to act boldly in the face of the climate crisis. Rich, largely western countries releasing the lion’s share of emissions have too often not pushed themselves hard enough over the course of the conference.
Mohamed Adow, who directs the Nairobi-based think-tank called Power Shift Africa said it plainly “the outcome here reflects a COP held in the rich world and the outcome contains the priorities of the rich world.”
Thankfully there are plenty of people willing to speak truth to power (if only they started listening). Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley made a powerful speech on climate injustice, serious lack of action and broken promises she continues to see from world leaders from wealthier countries.
Meanwhile, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, offered ScoMo a copy of his country’s Climate Change Act to be used as a guide. And Tuvalu’s foreign minister, Simon Kofe, got the world’s attention by filming his COP26 speech standing knee-deep in the ocean.
The crying shame of phasing 'down'.
What made the most headlines was the devastating last minute alternation to the language of the COP26 deal. After China and India threatened to pull out, they managed to change the wording so that now, ‘unabated coal power’ and ‘inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’ must be ‘phased down’ rather than ‘phased out’.
More than mere semantics, this is a huge loss for the rapid progress we need.
We can only hope that the 2022 revisit sees countries – especially those wealthier, most environmentally harmful countries – forging on with phase outs of fossil fuels, despite this change.
There were some wins (thankfully).
“We are leaving empty-handed but morally stronger, and hopeful that we can sustain the momentum in the coming years to deliver meaningful support which will allow the vulnerable to deal with the irreversible impacts of climate change, created by the polluting world, who are failing to take responsibility.” - Mohamed Adow, Power Shift Africa
While this wasn’t the end of COP26 that we all hoped for, there were some wins. 105 countries (not including Australia) committed to cutting methane by 30% in the next decade. And over 100 world leaders also committed to halting and reversing deforestation by 2030.
These are important decisions and promises, though alone, they’re certainly not enough. Both methane and deforestation is led largely by the rearing of cattle, sheep and other ruminants for food and fashion, so this, alongside oil and gas extraction, must be acted on fast.
Above all, we can only save our planet, and ourselves, together. Even if the change doesn’t come from the top. And we were reminded of this truth by the huge number of grassroots climate activists who made noise outside of the conference, and who continue to act for our planet, even if it doesn't always make headlines.
So, what will you do today for the planet?
Here are some starter ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Commit not to get involved in the mess that is Black Friday coming up (a day where huge amounts of clothes are bought, and largely thrown out before they're worn more than a few times). Choose Black Fridye instead!
- Take time to enjoy nature, and to give back to it. Plant seeds, water plants, remove plastic and rubbish from natural landscapes – they'll be so much more beautiful after.
- When you buy new, buy mindfully, sustainably and ethically. When it comes to finding Tees that fit into that category, we’ve got you covered.