The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

COP26 for Dummies - a Caritas view

 Girls standing among tree branches on the coast - from Lujan Home for Girls, Vanimo, Papua New Guinea.
Girls from Lujan Home, Vanimo, Papua New Guinea. We need to protect people and planet to survive.

In the first of a series of blogs following COP26 in Glasgow, Martin de Jong looks at what it's about and what the key issues are from a Caritas perspective.

COP26 refers to the 26th meeting of the ‘Conference of Parties’ (countries) that have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international Treaty that entered into force (became part of recognised international law) on 21 March 1994. Of 197 State Parties to the UNFCCC, 192 have ratified and endorsed the Paris Agreement of 2015. COP 21 in Paris (12 December 2015) represented a long-awaited breakthrough moment in 25 years of climate talks, as countries pledged to keep global temperature limit well below 2C (compared to pre-industrial levels), while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees.

The Paris Agreement requires all State Parties to adopt Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to cut emissions, provide for adaptation and commit to other actions to address climate change. Six years on, the world is way off track keeping below either temperature goal. The UNEP 2021 Emissions Gap report released this week says the latest country updates to NDCs (revised from pledges made in 2015-2016) would likely see the world 2.6C warmer than pre-industrial times. The recently updated NDC pledges are expected to cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2030 by about 2.9 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent gases. To set a track to keep below 2C warming by 2100, however, countries need to cut such emissions by an additional 11-13 billion by 2030, and by 25-28 billion for 1.5C.

COP26 is being hosted by the UK government, which has identified four key goals:

  • Secure global net zero emissions by 2050 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, by increasing ambition on targets.
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
  • Mobilize climate finance: developed countries to make good on their promise to mobilize at least $100bn in climate finance per year (by 2020) in favour of developing countries.
  • Work together to complete the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement, (”the Paris Rulebook”), particularly the thorny “Article 6” on carbon markets. The UK presidency is also promoting greater collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society.

These are worthy goals. Caritas wants swifter action and greater emphasis on helping poorer countries and communities address the impacts of climate change already being experienced. For example:

  • Finance and greater commitment to address Loss and Damage, recognising that many are already losing  lands, homes and livelihoods due to extreme weather and sea level rise.
  • Protecting and promoting human rights obligations in climate action, especially basic rights to food, water and shelter; and the rights of women, children, Indigenous and other marginalised groups.
  • Ensuring inclusive and participatory negotiations in spite of challenges caused by COVID-19.

While COP26 is being hosted by the United Kingdom government, it is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. Prior to COP26, the Scottish government and civil society produced the Glasgow Climate Dialogues, bringing voices from around the world on key climate issues such as loss and damage. Amelia Ma’afu of Caritas Tonga spoke on Access and Participation issues to the Dialogues. Read the outcomes, including the Communiqué to COP26 here.

Future blogs will profile the role of civil society, Church and faith networks in climate debates, and follow some of the key issues concerning Caritas.


by Martin de Jong - Advocacy Advisor, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.
Lead writer/researcher, Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust