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World Leaders Put on a Disappointing Performance at the COP26 Conference

Don’t be fooled: leaders are not set on making real change

World leaders are meeting from October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). 120 world leaders and thousands of delegates are in attendance; however, like most large-scale climate change conferences and initiatives, marginalized communities, including Indigenous peoples, are excluded from these conversations. The same leaders responsible for large-scale industrial pollution discuss performative “solutions” to the climate issues created by their respective economies, continuing to disregard the role of global capitalism in exacerbating climate change. This self-congratulatory practice excludes those most affected by climate change, namely those in the Global South, while simultaneously obscuring the role of its main perpetrators.

COP26’s intended purpose is to “bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” However, the lack of concrete action taken on climate change, mainly by the world’s imperial powers, was evident. No G20 country is in line with the Paris Agreement, despite the fact that they comprise most of the world’s largest economies.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of climate change recognizes that the impacts of global warming above 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels are detrimental to the health of the planet, and notably, will disproportionately impact the lower class and BIPOC. Under the Paris Agreement, 192 parties pledged to meet this target; however, based on current climate policies and continued government inaction by major emitters and consumers, temperatures will rise 2.7 degrees by the end of the century. Inaction only means that the effects of climate change – experienced primarily by the Global South – are getting worse by the second. While it is still possible to attain these goals, this is the “world’s last best chance –” action must be taken immediately.

The world leaders in attendance at these global climate conferences are rich, predominantly white, and predominantly men. These summits are not productive in addressing the climate emergency, because the rich and politically powerful will always choose to prioritize profit over the climate. On October 21, leaked documents exposed nations including Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia lobbying to modify a climate report to downplay the need for reducing fossil fuels. This is extremely hypocritical heading into COP26 and indicates a fundamental lack of commitment from world leaders to enact meaningful climate policies. 

Leaders fail to address the main driver of climate emergency: the economic greed of imperial powers. Countries such as Canada have been positioned as climate leaders, despite their continued destruction of Indigenous lands and Indigenous land governance. While Indigenous people make up about 5 per cent of the world’s population, they protect 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity – despite this, Canada frequently meets Indigenous land protection efforts with violence and further dispossession. Both federal and provincial governments continue to authorize dangerous pipeline projects, log old growth forests, and violate Indigenous land claims. Additionally, the IPCC has stated that Indigenous rights are directly related to climate change: Indigenous land management is more sustainable and effective than current conservation practices.

In order to implement policies that bring about global change, we need to recognize the intrinsic link between imperialism and the climate crisis. Notably, the military is exempt from climate commitments made in conferences such as COP26. During the 1992 Kyoto protocols, a clause was put forth during initial negotiations: despite being one of the largest polluters, the U.S. military is subject to a separate set of regulations regarding CO2 emissions. Privileging the military over other parts of the government implies that the project of imperialist conquest is more important than preventing the climate crisis.

Indigenous liberation and land governance is inextricably linked to the fight against the climate crisis. Support Land Back initiatives across Turtle Island – donate to Fairy Creek, Tiny House Warriors, 1492 Landback Lane, and the Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit cabin and camp fund. Stay informed on actions that take place locally, such as climate marches and the work of Divest McGill. For COP26- specific information, particularly related to the military, see the helpful toolkits prepared by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament