The rapidly developing existential threat posed by climate change, already recognised by peoples around the world, needs to be effectively addressed by governments. Yet COP26 officially concluded in Glasgow with little beyond flashy promises and dodgy trade initiatives. This was facilitated by the UK Presidency, which allowed the fossil fuel lobby to dominate COP26  whilst excluding many others, especially from the Global South . This bias inevitably contributed to the following outcomes:
Fast-track for geoengineering as climate colonialism replaces climate denial
With the science around climate change certain, climate denial is becoming a thing of the past. Fossil fuel companies have U-turned from refusing to accept that climate change is real to devising a dizzying array of ways of making money out of it, launching a fanfare of glittering but exclusionary initiatives, including at the World Leaders Summit innovation event . These are designed to deliver a reassuringly positive (although false) public narrative and to greenwash the companies involved, and include the promotion of high-risk geoengineering technologies. This is both extremely concerning because these non-existent technologies divert attention away from the implementation of real solutions; and bizarre given that geoengineering is under a de facto moratorium in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity .
High profile US/China bilateral deal also promotes geoengineering
Plans to profiteer on the back of the climate crisis were exemplified by the US and China, the world’s top producers and users of fossil fuels, who launched a joint declaration on ‘enhancing climate action’. This deal announces their intention to develop and deploy geoengineering technologies such as Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS) and Direct Air Capture (DAC) . These largely theoretical technologies mostly create more emissions than they reduce, and are primarily being developed by the fossil fuel industry to justify further fossil fuel extraction and emissions under the ‘Net Zero’ conceptual trap .
US/UAE initiative ‘AIM for Climate’ fires poison arrow at food and climate policy
Another initiative launched on the sidelines of COP26, ‘AIM for Climate’ (AIM4C) threatens food sovereignty. Launched by the US and UAE, and supported by the UK Government and others, its proponents claim it could make the global food system ‘Net Zero’ by 2050  through climate-focused ‘innovation’ (meaning food production based on digitalisation, automation and synthetic biology technologies). But AIM4C is primarily intended to advance a new wave of high tech industrial agriculture, reframing Big Ag from climate change villain to hero, attracting climate finance, and aligning it with the interests of big data companies like Microsoft and Amazon’s AWS, who are already moving into agriculture . AIM4C threatens to ramp up land-grabbing, threatening the very existence of the smallholder and peasant farmers who are the ones that feed the majority of the world’s population and are already cooling the climate through local and ecological agriculture . We successfully raised these concerns in Glasgow with civil society, Indigenous and farmers’ organisations, and Climate Action Network awarded the US a ‘Fossil of the Day’ for AIM for Climate on 3 November . ETC Group also raised our concerns with governments and delegates, and we were requested to leave a launch event so that AIM for Climate’s proponents could dodge criticism.
‘Net Zero’ Con widely denounced including by governments
‘Net Zero’ is a typical ‘doublespeak’ term: it is not real zero, but a trap specifically designed to allow fossil fuel companies to keep on polluting, as well as the establishment of new carbon markets. Shamelessly, ‘Net Zero’ by 2050 is touted by many as the goal for climate negotiations, but this is actually the direct opposite of what is needed: leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Over 700 civil society organisations from around the world issued a global call for ‘Real Solutions, Not Net Zero’ at the start of COP26  and ETC Group participated in a key civil society event setting out “Why Polluters are ‘Net Zero’ ’s Biggest Champions” . There is also opposition amongst governments: Bolivia, speaking on behalf of the Like Minded Developing Countries in official negotiations on the last day of COP26, explicitly challenged the concept of ‘Net Zero’ .
No plans to leave fossil fuels in the ground
Almost 30 years after the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed, COP26 was still unable to commit to the phase out of fossil fuels. The fact that ‘fossil fuels’ were just mentioned in a COP text, for the first time in three decades of negotiations – and even then only in the context of “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”  – hardly inspires confidence that the rapid progress needed is imminent.
Lobbyists from fossil fuel industry should be excluded from any future COPs and other climate negotiations
COP26 is over, and its participants have dispersed. The outcomes are deeply troubling, but the strength and breadth of civil society’s energy, demands for change, and linking and networking, even given the extremely difficult circumstances presented by the pandemic, was heartening.
We need to redouble our efforts to curtail climate change in real, effective and equitable ways that protect food sovereignty and human rights. To this end, lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry, who outnumbered every delegation at COP26 , should be systematically excluded from any future climate COPs and other climate negotiations.