Updates from COP26: What happened over the weekend in Glasgow?

As we enter week two of COP26, things are still very much in the balance as to how we will measure the success of the conference. So far, we’ve heard commitments from world leaders on coal, methane gasses and de-forestation. We’ve had speeches from world leaders, including from communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis urging more concrete and drastic action (the Foreign Minister of Tuvalu has delivered a speech to COP26 standing knee deep in the Ocean to highlight the threat of rising sea levels).

If last week was the week of stating intentions, this week the work begins to determine whether they can be made achievable. Today, ministers from the global delegations arrive in Glasgow, ready to work out the detail of how these commitments will come about. In particular, we’re looking out for reviews of how often climate targets should be reviewed (potentially being increased to every year), commitments of further financing to support developing countries in mitigation and adaptation, and more attention to be given to pledges of finance for loss and damage support for frontline communities.

Global day of action

As COP26 delegates paused for rest over the weekend, tens of thousands of people gathered in Glasgow to play their part in encouraging more energy and more commitment over the next week. Faith groups formed part of this, and gathered in various ways to share in collective action, prayer and commitment during COP26.

Members of different faiths protesting together at the Day of Action for Climate Justice
The faiths bloc at the Day of Action for Climate Justice

On Saturday, a faith bloc formed part of the 100,000 strong Day of Action for Climate Justice, including a march through Glasgow City Centre. Glasgow weather was out in full force – with buckets of rain one moment, before blue sky and rainbows the next (symbolic for those of Christian faith in the group!). But this didn’t stop the passion, energy and commitment of the interfaith movement gathering in Kelvingrove Park to add their voice to the collective call for climate justice. Leading the bloc, multi-faith leaders carried a banner reading ‘Faiths and Beliefs for Climate Justice’, and were accompanied by calls of ‘united we stand, divided we fall, climate justice for one and for all’.

Climate Justice For All

Members of the Climate Justice for All team together at the CJ4A Live event at Woodlands Methodist Church
Team members at Climate Justice For All Live, at Woodlands Methodist Church

On Saturday afternoon, the Climate Justice For All team – a youth-led movement to call the global Methodist family to action ahead of COP26 – began their 12-hour livestream event from Woodlands Methodist Church. The team aimed to live stream to communities around the world, engaging with communities in various different time-zones when it was best for groups to tune in. They told stories from Zambia, Italy, India, Fiji, Bangladesh, Uruguay and Britain, sharing resources developed throughout their campaign as well as live interviews and reflections offered in the space.

This significant endeavour showed the commitment of these young activists to bring their communities together, to show collective solidarity with their neighbours around the world on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and to call their governments to account on setting ambitious targets for carbon reduction. It was a celebration as well as a call to action, showing the power of a collective voice at this crucial moment.

Ecumenical service at Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral, where the ecumenical service for COP26 was held on Sunday 7th November
Glasgow Cathedral, where the ecumenical service for COP26 was held on Sunday 7th November

On Sunday afternoon, Christian members of various delegations at the COP as well as local faith leaders gathered in Glasgow Cathedral for an ecumenical service to mark COP26. In a packed Cathedral, the hosts brought the traditional music of the Cathedral (including bagpipes and a fanfare) as a powerful call to worship. Church leaders from around the world were in attendance, and Revd Dr Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the Global Board of Church and Society at the United Methodist Church preached to the congregation. Her message was a call to return, to God and to creation, inspired by a neon-sign installation in the Cathedral from artist Robert Foss reading ‘Returning and into your arms’.

Methodist attendees at the ecumenical service stand outside Glasgow Cathedral, including Climate Justice For All team members, Methodists from Fiji, the US, Scotland and England!
Methodist attendees at the ecumenical service, including Climate Justice For All team members, Methodists from Fiji, the US, Scotland and England!

Perhaps the urgency of this calling was most significantly embodied by a call to prayer from Pacific communities, offered by Iemaima Vaai from Samoa, and also a member of the Climate Justice For All team. She brought the fear and urgency Pacific communities face into a call for lament and action by all gathered for COP26. This was deepened by the powerful moment of a young girl leaving the cathedral, carrying a homemade placard through the crowds reading ‘Save our planet’ – a reminder of the burden weighing heavily on future generations.

Christian Aid prayer boats offered by supporters displayed in the cathedral nave
Christian Aid prayer boats offered by supporters displayed in the cathedral nave

The week ahead

As we enter this next week of negotiations, we pray that these gathering moments across the weekend might bring energy to the talks still to come. We know that we need much more from COP26 to truly achieve climate justice. Current commitments are yet to be ambitious enough to ensure that the 1.5°C limit on global warming is achieved (current commitments are likely to achieve a cap of 1.8°c). Significantly, the signs will be in the detail as to whether the rhetoric seen from world leaders, including here in the UK, is to be matched with genuine intent to change our current trajectory and commit to a new way of doing things.

Where we are still really lagging behind are any kind of significant commitments to low-emitting but frontline communities in terms of finance for loss and damage. The UK government have pledged £290m to help poorer countries cope, and the Scottish government have offered £1m. But in the context of the UK slashing the international development budget to 0.5% of GDP until at least 2024, this is barely pennies in the grand scheme of over £73 billion needed a year for loss and damage support.

We would value your continued prayers throughout this week, that we might reach a hopeful commitment to a new way of living which ensures climate justice. COP26 is one of many steps on this journey, but we pray it is one on the right path.

'Get Your Skates On', an artwork by I D Campbell displayed at Glasgow Cathedral
‘Get Your Skates On’, an artwork by I D Campbell displayed at Glasgow Cathedral

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