Climate Activists Say Loopholes in COP26 Pact “Make Mockery” of Negotiations

Friday’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow is over. Activists staged a walkout in protest against late decisions by negotiators to significantly weaken commitments in final agreement. While the earlier draft of the unbinding Glasgow Agreement called for “phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels,” the new draft calls for the phaseout of “unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.” We get an update on the walkout from one of its leaders: COP26 Coalition lead spokesperson Asad Rehman. “We should not call it a Glasgow pact, we should call it a Glasgow suicide pact for the poorest in the world,” says Rehman. “They’re ramming through so many loopholes that it makes a mockery of these climate negotiations.” Rehman was part of a group of members from U.N. constituencies that took over one of the main negotiation rooms inside COP26 this morning to issue a “people’s declaration” in light of the weakened language.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:This is Democracy Now! It’s Climate Countdown. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our coverage of the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where negotiators have backed away from including a call to phase out coal as well as fossil fuel subsidies in the latest draft agreement, which was released today, the final scheduled day of the two-week summit. An earlier draft had called for, quote, “phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” Meanwhile, the new draft is calling for the phaseout of “unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.” One of the added words, “unabated,” means nations could continue using coal if they’re able to catch large amounts of the carbon dioxide they emit — something that’s been widely deemed controversial as the technology to fully capture greenhouse gases is still being developed. Climate justice activists and Indigenous leaders have condemned the draft agreement as a failure. It is far weaker than what climate scientists believe is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

Today, dozens took over the plenary room at COP26 to increase their demands. A huge procession of global climate justice advocates then marched through the hallways of COP26 as they chanted “Power to the people!” and walked out of the venue, where they met with other protesters.

For more, we go outside the venue, where we’re joined by Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, lead spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition, one of the organizers of today’s People’s Plenary, part of the walkout now.

Asad Rehman, we are glad to be back. Democracy Now!Describe your current location and what you think of the latest draft of the Glasgow pact.

ASAD REHMAN:Our response is that it should not be called a Glasgow pact. Instead, it should be called the Glasgow suicide pact of the poorest people in the world. It does not lower us below the 1.5 degree guardrail. It actually pushes us closer towards 3 degrees, where governments turn their faces on the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, making it impossible to meet the paltry $100 million. They’re ramming through so many loopholes that it makes a mockery of these climate negotiations.

And that’s why this morning over 700 people from all the different civil society constituencies, representing environmental organizations, women and gender, youth, trade unions, Indigenous people, farmers and peasants, came together and took over one of the main plenary halls where these deals are cooked up. And we issued our own People’s Declaration, calling on what we actually want to see outside this COP: countries to commit to their fair share of effort, strong binding targets with real zero by 2030, meeting the $100 billion, but actually recognizing that we need trillions if we’re going to have a real, just transition that leaves no one behind, recognizing that the reality of this climate crisis means that we need adaptation and loss and damage for the poorest and most vulnerable, and that rich countries need to take responsibility and liability for the damage that they’re doing. We know that some of these clauses were drafted by polluters or big business, so this was our attempt as individuals to draft our declaration as a rallying call from both the inside and outside.

AMY GOODMAN: So, describe the People’s Plenary and the walkout, Asad.

ASAD REHMAN: So, this morning — there are official U.N. constituencies which are recognized by the United Nations, and we’re an integral part of these negotiations. We should be — we are the eyes and ears of global civil society. And what we’ve found over these two weeks is that we’ve been locked out of those negotiations. We’ve been barred from the negotiating rooms. We’re unable to even begin to see what is being negotiated so-called in our name.

And that drove, in an unprecedented moment of unity across, really, all of global — and these are not just climate justice organizations — mainstream organizations all coming together and saying, “We’re absolutely fed up. We’re absolutely frustrated by the slow pace of action, by the inaction and by the way that the U.K. presidency has hosted this COP to silence our voices.” And they issued a — we heard a speech after speech from each of the constituencies. The declaration, which was drafted by all the constituencies, was then adopted to great acclaim.

People broke out into singing of “Power to the People.” And led by the Indigenous movement, we came out to meet a massive rally of people who, from the outside, were at the gates to welcome both the inside and outside together and to declare that whilst they are calling for inaction, we’re calling for justice. Our movement is growing stronger. We’re uniting trade unions and Indigenous, women and students, young and old. And we’re building the movement that is needed. We know that this will only happen if we, ordinary citizens, lead this change, and force our governments into our best interests.

AMY GOODMAN:Asad: We only have a few moments and I wanted you to answer my question about your meeting in London with Boris Johnson, British prime minister.

ASAD REHMAN:Yes, I did meet Boris Johnson. We [inaudible]. We gave a commitment to the movements, to the people of the U.K., saying that not only would we build the movement that is needed here in the U.K. — and we have built a powerful climate justice movement that put hundreds of thousands of people on the streets — but we take that voice and that message and their demands into the negotiations and into making sure that the prime minister heard that. I set out that the U.K. is hypocritical, that it cannot be a climate leader when it’s greenlighting more gas and oil licenses in the North Sea, when it’s turned its back on the poorest with the COVID vaccine apartheid, when it’s cut its overseas development aid but it’s handing out billions and billions to fossil fuel subsidies. If the U.K. was truly a leader in this area, it’d be taking its fair share of actions.

The prime minister, of course, said, “I’d love to see more action,” as if somebody else is doing — is responsible and is able to do this action. He’s the leader of this country. Britain is the country that has been polluting the most in history and it has to act. And, in fact, when we started this summit, the prime minister said, “We’re at one minute to midnight.” He doesn’t act like we’re at one minute to midnight. He acts like we’ve got years and years and years. And the reason why is because, of course, the first people on the frontlines are not the people in the Global North, they’re the people of the Global South. Again, people are being sacrificed for profit.

AMY GOODMAN:Let’s see, Asad, the Green New Deal or the Global Green New Deal in the final minute. What would it look like?

ASAD REHMAN:A radical Global Green New Deal, which not only addresses the climate crisis and reduces our emissions fairly, but also recognizes that we must address global inequality and poverty. Half the world is living in poverty right now, in a world full of abundance. We must [inaudible]Within the limits of the planet. With the same logic of extracting on the Global South, we cannot build a global transition. We must meet. We need to transform from an economy of extraction to a circular world sharing equitably the world’s resources and wealth.

We also need to recognize that the realities of why these injustices are taking place are structural, and they’ve been hardwired into our economies. From slavery to colonialism to imperialism to neoliberalism, what we’ve seen is that the richest have grown wealthy on the backs of overwhelmingly the Global South. We need to end those systems and create a fair, just world where everyone can live with dignity and live in harmony.

We know what we need to do. We’ve got the plans and policies. We know that we must transform our energy and food systems. We must guarantee that people receive living wages, public services, and social security. We already have everything we need. We now need to make the power possible. And all around the world over these last two weeks, what’s been amazing has been the different iterations of people not just saying what’s wrong, but saying this is the world, and this is what we’re going to fight, and this is what we’re going to create. And that’s been the most uplifting thing about this summit.

AMY GOODMAN:Asad Rehman: I want to thank for being with us, executive Director of the War on Want and lead spokesperson for COP26 Coalition. He spoke earlier in the week at the plenary. He was a leader of the civil society walkout today.

Next up, we go to Massacre: The Story of East Timor. Today is thirty years ago. More than 270 people were killed when Indonesian soldiers opened gunfire on civilians in East Timor. Stay with me.