After COP26 failures, rich nations must accelerate climate action, say Christians

(Photo: Unsplash/Markus Spiske)

The end of the COP26 climate summit has been met with mixed feelings from Christians after it fell short on funding and carbon emissions pledges.

The Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed by nations at the eleventh hour, speaks of the need to 'phase down' coal production and subsidies, after an intervention by India to replace the earlier stronger wording of 'phase out'. 

Pledges on greenhouse gas reductions aimed at keeping global warming to below 1.5C have been shelved until next year.

Other provisions lay the ground for a dialogue on funding loss and damage suffered by developing countries as a result of climate change.

The pact also voices "deep regret" over the failure of rich nations to deliver on their longstanding promise of $100bn a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Responding to the outcome, Andy Atkins, CEO of Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK, said that although there was hope of progress next year, rich countries must accelerate their climate response.

"The hope of keeping to 1.5 degrees may just be alive, but it won't survive another year without a dramatic shift in the pace of real action," he said.

"The poorest and most vulnerable countries and the younger generation have cried out 'Help, now! We're going under.'

"Rich countries and fossil fuel producers essentially responded with: 'we're sorry about that; we'll speed up our conversation about when we might stop polluting and throw you a lifeline.'"

The two week UN summit was attended by nearly every country in the world and ended a day late on Saturday after talks ran over.

Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, said there was an urgent need for nations to move from words to action.

"Despite some steps forward, the world is on track for 2.4C of global heating, subjecting millions more people to extreme heat and dangerous weather.The climate crisis is here and people are already suffering," she said.

"COP26 failed to deliver on long overdue promises or heed the loud cries of climate vulnerable nations for any support in the face of increasing climate disasters. Whilst the pledges made at this summit have put some hope for a future below 2C on the table, right now these are just words.

"We urgently need richer nations to turn this into reality, coming back in 2022 with 1.5C aligned climate commitments, consigning all dirty fossil fuels to the history books, and finally stumping up the long overdue $100bn a year to help vulnerable countries adjust to a more unpredictable and dangerous future.

"Climate justice won't be achieved by a single person or decision - but millions of us will keep playing our part while we call on world leaders to play theirs."

Kuki Rokhum, Tearfund partner in India, echoed the call for action.

"The Glasgow talks have not secured a 1.5C future but we march on because we need climate justice," she said.

"We need justice for all those who live lightly yet pay heavily - the poorest communities and indigenous peoples around the world whose lives and homes are already being destroyed by extreme weather, droughts and floods.

"And we walk in faith that things can change. Together we each carry with us a hope that we will see action, not just words, from this UN Climate Summit. The time to act was yesterday, but we still have today."