COP26: Extinction Rebellion Sheffield says coal power commitment is not good enough

Environmental activists in Sheffield have voiced their despair at the outcome of the international climate conference, saying the commitments made are nowhere near enough.

By Jinqian Li
Monday, 22nd November 2021, 12:34 am

COP 26, which took place this month in Glasgow, ended with a pledge by global leaders to keep temperature rises within 1.5C – as suggested by scientists – to prevent a ‘climate catastrophe’.

It was the first time at a COP conference that an explicit plan was made to reduce the use of coal – which is responsible for 40 per cent of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Andrew Spencer, 61, an Art Group member of Extinction Rebellion Sheffield, promoting action on the climate crisis, said: “People call it unprecedented to explicitly reduce coal, but it’s nowhere near what is needed. We need to start phasing out all fossil fuels urgently to stand a chance of keeping warming under 1.5C.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Extinction Rebelion Sheffield protesters demonstrating during the COP26 climate change conference

“Act now as if we are in an emergency situation because we are.”

Extinction Rebellion Sheffield held a samba demonstration earlier this month in the city centre in protest at what members called ‘failures of COP, hypocrisy of the UK government and the need for real, rapid action and climate justice’.

Mr Spencer said: “I don’t like to call COP26 a failure because I don’t want people to give up hope in a future where the world is a suitable place for humans to live and thrive.

“But it can’t be called a success because people will think that the problem is solved, which it has not been, even slightly.

“The only hope for the future is for people to put pressure on governments and corporations by engaging in activism. Unless governments and corporations are shamed into taking the necessary action they will carry on pretty much with business-as-usual for the profits they make, even though they are destroying the future for their own children and grandchildren and future generations.”

Janice Brown, 67, who joined the demonstration in Glasgow, said: “I’m a grandmother and that’s one of the reasons why I went to the march because I care so much about the future of my grandchildren.

“We’re out on the streets because we are bitterly disappointed that not sufficient has been done. We’re facing an absolute catastrophe and they’re still not taking the steps they need to. We need to stop fossil fuels immediately.”

Leaders will meet next year to pledge further cuts to CO2 emissions to keep the 1.5C target achievable. They also agreed to phase out subsidies that artificially lower the price of

coal, oil, or natural gas. However, no firm dates have been set for this.

Dawn Spier, 58, Sheffield Greenpeace local group coordinator, said: “It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive. Glasgow was meant to deliver on firmly closing the gap to 1.5C and that didn’t happen, but in 2022 nations will now have to come back with stronger targets.

“The line on phasing out unabated coal and fossil fuel subsidies is weak and compromised but its very existence is nevertheless a breakthrough, and the focus on a just transition is essential.

“The only reason we got what we did is because young people, indigenous leaders, activists and countries on the climate frontline forced concessions that were grudgingly given. Without them, these climate talks would have flopped completely.

“Time’s up, we’ve run out of road, and as a matter of self-survival we need to urgently mobilise to create irrepressible pressure that finally ends the era of all fossil fuels.

“Young people who’ve come of age in the climate crisis won’t tolerate many more outcomes like this. Why should they when they’re fighting for their futures?”

The COP26 agreement also pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change. There’s the prospect of a trillion

dollar a year fund from 2025 - after a previous pledge for richer countries to provide $100bn (£72bn) a year by 2020 was missed.

Ms Spier said: “There was a recognition that vulnerable countries are suffering real loss and damage from the climate crisis now, but what was promised was nothing

close to what’s needed on the ground. This issue must be at the top of the agenda for developed countries as the COP goes to Egypt next year.”

Throughout COP26, high-profile protests were held across the country to fight for change.

Molly Cowell, a 17-year-old campaigner representing Youth Strike 4 Climate Sheffield, said: “Climate change is a global issue, and it’s really important we campaign not just for

ourselves as a city, but actually for the global population. It will affect all of us, especially young people.

“For a long time, climate change has just been seen as an issue in the future but actually it’s an issue for the present.

“We want to send a clear message to world leaders that they have to take decisive actions on climate change. The performative actions and empty words are not sufficient when it comes to such an enormous existential threat.”