• June 21st, 2024
  • Friday, 07:58:47 PM

Humanity on a Tightrope

Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Shaw/permission Sierra Club Climate activism demonstrated its strength and vitality at COP26.


Javier Sierra


Humanity is walking on a climatic tightrope. The COP26 Climate Change Conference tried once more to build a safety net that keeps us from falling into an atmospheric point of no return.


No matter how hard the fossil fuel industry shakes the rope, the rest of humanity’s climate fight continues steadily.


But the army of lobbyists the dirty energy industry brought to the summit and their allies in power did all they could to make it fail.


After two weeks of intense negotiations, and in the face of enormous obstacles, COP26 managed to score remarkable achievements:


-Twenty-eight new countries, subnational governments, and private sector entities joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, and over 40 countries signed the Global Coal to Clean Power Transition statement. Also, major philanthropic and research institutions agreed to strengthen their efforts to accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy.


-More than 100 countries agreed to cut their methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 under the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative led by the United States and the European Union.


-More than 100 governments, fleet owners and vehicle manufacturers pledged to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040 globally, and by 2035 in leading markets.


-More than 100 countries signed an agreement to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. The agreement includes $19.2 billion in public and private funding to support land conservation efforts.


-Almost forty countries, including the United States, pledged to end their international support for fossil fuels and nearly 500 global financial services firms agreed to align $130 trillion–approximately 40 percent of global financial assets–with the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement.


COP26 also showcased the vigor and enthusiasm of global climate activism, led by thousands of young people, Indigenous Tribes, and frontline communities during a march of 100,000 in the streets of Glasgow, rejecting hollow promises and demanding true climate action.


The Glasgow Climate Pact establishes a pathway to revise and enhance 2030 emissions goals to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit alive, insists on the financial assistance that developed countries need to provide to countries struggling with climate impacts, and envisions the end of fossil fuel subsidies. The summit, however, failed to secure a path to achieving global net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or reaching the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


And we owe this failure in large part to the extraordinary sabotage efforts by the dirty energy industry, whose delegation of more than 500 lobbyists surpassed that of any attending country. For all of them, it was easy to overcome the COVID-19 travel restrictions, inequitable vaccine access, and high costs of attendance that kept hundreds of delegates from the Global South from participating.


Regardless of all these adversities, international financial markets confirm that the days of the fossil fuel industry are numbered. According to a Bloomberg Energy report, financing a dirty energy project is almost seven times more expensive than one of clean, renewable energy. So far, institutions the world over have dropped almost $40 trillion in fossil fuel investments. And in yet another example of coal’s demise, Southern Co., the second worst coal polluter in the US, announced that it will retire half of its coal-burning plants.


No matter how hard the fossil fuel industry shakes the rope, the rest of humanity’s climate fight continues steadily.


Javier Sierra writes the monthly bilingual column Sierra & Tierra.


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