We will not be defeated
In the final hours of the U.N. climate treaty negotiations, COP26, I was on a call with Corporate Accountability climate organizers around the world. They said people on the frontlines of the climate crises brought the policy solutions. They brought the fire and their moral outrage. And together, we all fought like hell to make international progress on addressing the climate crisis. That includes the thousands of Corporate Accountability members who amplified the demands of folks on the frontlines and pressured the U.S., U.K., and EU delegations from all sides.
But our governments failed us.
This might not be the story you hear in the media. The U.S., the U.K., the EU, and other rich countries advancing the agenda of Big Polluters engaged in a whole set of devious, underhanded tactics. They hit hard and played dirty to paint themselves as the saviors of the climate crisis and declare negotiations a success—while they set the world on a path to 2.4 degrees Celsius of warming. And, in this most inaccessible and inequitable COP, the governments of countries most impacted by the crisis did not ultimately band together to fight back. They did not heed the calls of the people they represented.
Yet again, governments failed to deliver the bold and transformative policy that people around the world—especially people on the frontlines of the crisis—demanded, need, and deserve. See the resource list at the end of this post for more information and analysis from our allies about the specific outcomes of these failed meetings.
Here’s what climate organizers had to say, just hours after the final gavel fell.
“The Global North and polluting corporations have not only caused great damage to our world—but continue to weaken global resolve to own up to the consequences of their actions. They must pay.
And: as a Global South climate activist, I feel great sorrow and embarrassment that our governments have, for 26 COPs, allowed the Global North to bully them into forgetting the voices of the grassroots and the front lines. We entrusted these so-called leaders with the power to negotiate for a better future, but they have let us down.
So now it is in the hands of the people—we must take back our power. It’s our turn. We can make big polluters pay. Demand governments follow the will of the people. And create the future we need.”
– Hellen Neima, Africa Climate Director, Corporate Accountability
“As COP26 wraps up, there is no denying the hypocrisy and insincerity around real commitments to climate justice that has been exposed in these negotiations.
Much as the leadership of the UNFCCC might like to pat itself on the back, it is important to know that without a people-centered agenda & process, COP is at best a mere charade and a time-wasting jamboree! Communities at the frontline have been curbed to the sidelines while their interests are treated as mere items for the consideration of the wealthiest nations and corporations.
Now more than ever, we need to mobilize, from the front lines to the streets. Our people powered movement must prevail so our governments have no choice but to do right by us. We will not look away!”
– Aderonke Ige, Associate Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa
“COP26 has effectively buried the opportunity to stabilize global temperatures below 1.5 degrees and condemned us to false solutions, impunity, and irrationality. Regardless of the success story that so-called leaders are selling to the world, we know that this only means more suffering for billions. We don’t believe them anymore! Now is the time to build solidarity with grassroots struggles that are challenging the powers and systems that have gotten us here, and build a just pathway forward.”
– Martin Vilela, Latin America Climate Campaign Coordinator, Corporate Accountability
“Why did we trust a process led by the same governments that are letting social, Indigenous, and environmental defenders be killed at home? Governments that overpower, loot, and impoverish nations? Governments that wave the flag of democracy and development to wage wars, destroy, and kill?
Why did we trust a process that welcomed the corporations that created the crisis and are destroying our world, livelihoods, and health, while shutting out the people suffering from this violence? This process has failed us, and we must let it crumble. It is time for the people to reclaim control of our future, rather than let it die in the incapable hands of this useless process.”
– Nathalie Rengifo Álvarez, Latin America Climate Director
As you can see, we’re not done fighting. Our allies and Global South organizers have been saying for decades that the true power for change lies in mobilizing people power. And that power is everywhere, from Indigenous communities in the Americas, to Ogoniland in Nigeria, to island communities. Around the world, Indigenous and local people—especially women—are putting their bodies and lives on the lines to stop extractive, polluting industries for all of our future.
Today, I invite you to join me in solidarity with these frontline communities. We all can take action from where we are to hold Big Polluters accountable, even if our governments have failed to do so. The Liability Roadmap is a tool anyone can use to take steps to hold Big Polluters accountable in their communities. Since we co-launched it with a global coalition of allies, organizations, and collectives last year, people around the world have been using it. If you aren’t already, you, too, can be part of this global movement.
If we are to have a just transition and a viable future for all, it will be because of the people—that’s Hellen, Aderonke, Nathalie, Martin, thousands of climate justice warriors back home from Glasgow, you, me, and the millions of people around the world who want a different future. And this gives me hope.
We are not defeated; we are rising. And together, we will win.
For more information and analysis of the outcomes from COP26, check out the following resources from climate justice allies around the globe:
Closing statement and final press release from the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice
Closing thoughts from one of the most powerful global climate justice coalitions, of which Corporate Accountability is a member
Why the COP outcomes are scandalous
Final statement from Friends of the Earth International
The Rise Up series | Episode 1 CAUTION: It’s hot in here
A feminist, decolonial take on the false solutions promoted at COP26. It’s a satiric, animated, and funny short video.
The people’s COP26 decision for climate justice
This document lays out the solutions and policies that governments should have adopted at COP26, from the climate justice movement
A few technical explanations on how the outcomes benefit rich nations and leave frontline communities on their own
A thread from Nathan Thanki, Co-Coordinator, The Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice
Why India was not the villain in the coal-phase out negotiations
A short article from Brandon Wu, Director of Policy & Campaigns, ActionAID USA
The Global Call for Real Solutions
Released at the beginning of COP26 and signed by more than 750 organizations from around the world