Why we need COP26 to deliver climate justice

Photo: NASA, Graphic: Sandra Stowe/Oxfam America

President Biden is joining world leaders at COP26 to discuss action to curb emissions and address the impacts of a warming planet. Here’s why those conversations must deliver climate justice.

The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow is an opportunity for world leaders to come together in movement toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year, we need our leaders to deliver on climate justice.

Here’s why we can’t afford climate inaction

The climate crisis is affecting every country on every continent.

And yet, it is those who have been most marginalized by a racist, patriarchal, and inequitable system—those who have done the least to cause the problem—who are hardest hit by monster storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires. From Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, which killed over 1,000 people and left millions without homes, water, food, or their livelihoods as the storm destroyed farmland and demolished harvests; to Hurricane Ida, which ravaged New Orleans this summer, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina tore through the same city; poor folks, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and women have faced the worst impacts of a changing climate. Climate justice at COP means supporting the resilience of people who are facing the worst climate impacts now and ensuring that the $100 billion that wealthy countries have pledged in financing to poor countries goes to adaptation that meets the self-determined needs of communities, as well as helping governments meet their own climate goals.

The fossil fuel industry is driving most of the climate pollution that has caused this crisis, and wealthy countries have done little to curtail it.

In order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, we need to slash emissions by at least half by 2030. The biggest emitters, like the United States, must step up and do their fair share to cut emissions. Unfortunately, leaders have yet to take the necessary action to keep warming below catastrophic levels. This is in large part because fossil fuel companies (in addition to other polluters) have incredible influence over our elected leaders and have gotten away with lying about the impacts of climate change for years. At the same time, in the US, these companies are receiving $15 billion annually in federal subsidies paid for by taxpayers. Climate justice at COP starts with the delivery of a plan to stop fossil fuel use in rich countries and a big piece of that will be curbing the influence of these polluters and stopping the subsidization of climate destruction that works against our collective interests in the US and beyond.

Bold and meaningful climate action will be worth it.

With strong action by leading governments to drastically cut emissions, we can transition to a just and equitable world that relies on clean energy from sources like the wind and sun, that provides good paying jobs to workers in the US and around the globe, and that sustains resilient and thriving communities with creative farming practices, access to clean energy, and strong infrastructure. Climate justice at COP means enabling a just transition that actively engages workers, poor communities, and Indigenous People as a crucial part of an expedient phase out of dirty sources of energy, inefficient and inequitable transportation, and harmful agricultural practices.

COP26 is a critical moment.

Given the turmoil of the Trump administration, this is the first time the US has come to the table in good faith for major global negotiations on climate change since the Paris Agreement. World leaders meeting in Glasgow for COP26, including President Biden, must take urgent action to cut emissions and ensure that wealthy countries are contributing to funds that will help compensate for the disastrous impacts that extreme weather and rising sea levels have already had on vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, the voices of those most impacted, BIPOC, poor communities, and leaders in low-income countries, are often kept out of global climate negotiations, even though they are often the best prepared to provide solutions. Climate justice at COP means inclusively addressing climate change and ensuring traditionally marginalized voices have a seat at the table so that we can ensure all of our ability to live on a safe planet.

Our asks of world leaders going into this pivotal moment are clear.

Daniel Mulé, Oxfam America policy lead, Extractive Industries Tax and Transparency, speaks at a rally to end fossil fuel subsidies in Washington, DC. Photo: Becky Davis/Oxfam America

Here’s what we need to do to deliver climate justice

  1. Reduce emissions in a just and equitable way.
  2. Support people on the frontlines of extreme climate impacts by scaling up funding and investments in adaptation to meet the needs of local communities, combat hunger through food security, and build resilience.
  3. Ensure historically marginalized and vulnerable communities—including women and Indigenous communities—have a voice on the global stage in advancing the climate agenda.

Sign our petition to demand President Biden protects the most vulnerable to climate change.

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