Over 190 countries signed the Glasgow Climate Pact at the U.N. summit in Glasgow, Scotland on Saturday. This calls for governments to return next January in Egypt with stronger plans for reducing their emissions and encourages wealthy nations to give more money to vulnerable countries in South Asia. It urges countries to reduce their use of coal and phase out fossil fuel subsidies. However, activists claim that the final language of this agreement is too weak for meaningful emission reductions and to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is what scientists believe is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. “There has been no real progress,” says Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a youth climate justice activist from the Philippines. “Once again, the U.N. climate summit just prioritized the voices of the privileged and not those that are most affected by the climate crisis.” We also speak with Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USAAccording to Wu, rich countries are making China and India look bad for not taking stronger action on phasing off fossil fuels while still generating their own oil and natural gas projects. “The real climate criminals are the wealthy countries,” says Wu.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.
AMY GOODMAN:This is Climate Countdown. Nearly 200 nations reached a deal to address climate emergencies at the U.N. climate summit, which ended Saturday. Alok Sharma, President at COP26, hailed the agreement as historic.
ALOK SHARMA: But I’m very pleased to say that we now have in place the Glasgow Climate Pact, agreed amongst all the parties here. … I would say, however, that this is a fragile win. We have kept 1.5 alive. This was our primary objective when we embarked on this journey two-years ago. We assumed the role of the COP presidency-designate. I believe the pulse of 1.5 is still weak. And that’s why, whilst we have reached, I do believe, a historic agreement, what this will be judged on is not just the fact that countries have signed up, but it will be judged on whether they meet and deliver on the commitments.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier drafts of the deal called for coal to be, quote, “phased out,” but in the final agreement nations agreed for it to be, quote, “phased down.” Countries also agreed to meet next year to make new pledges to cut carbon. Based on current pledges the global temperature is on track to rise by 2.4 degrees Celsius more than preindustrial levels. The Glasgow Pact calls on wealthy countries to double the amount of money they provide to developing nations to help them adapt in the face of a climate crisis that was largely not their fault.
Although conference leaders referred to the deal as historic, many scientists, activists, and nations were disappointed by the final agreement. Asad Rehman addressed the closing plenary on behalf of the COP26 Coalition, which had organized last weekend’s major climate justice rally in Glasgow.
ASAD REHMAN: I’m finding it difficult to convey our anger and frustration at this utter betrayal of people, hollow words about climate emergency from the richest countries, an utter disregard about — of the science and equity, false ambition and disdain for justice, a license to pollute with net zero 2050 and carbon markets. You have made decisions that will affect the lives of millions, as one party admitted. After 500 years of colonial power and white supremacy that looted the wealth of the Global South and stole the profits, you still value your profits more than the lives of Black, Brown, or Indigenous peoples. The rich refuse their fair share. More empty words about climate finance You’ve turned your backs on the poorest, who face a crisis of COVIDClimate and economic apartheid is a result of the actions taken by the wealthiest.
It’s immoral for the rich to talk about their future children and grandchildren when the children of the Global South are dying now. We needed to show solidarity and cooperate. The rich spoke more empty words. 1.5 is dead. You’re setting us on a pathway to two-and-a-half degrees. You’re setting the planet on fire and claiming to act. Your greenwashing is deadly, and no amount spin will hide it. We have hope. It won’t rest with you. But it will with us. And we don’t compromise on justice.
AMY GOODMAN:Asad Rehman, COP26 Coalition, speaks at the closing plenary U.N. climate summit.
We’re joined now by two guests. Brandon Wu, Director of Policy and Campaigns at ActionAid, is joining us. USAJust wrote a piece headlined “Fossil Fuels in the COP Decision Text: Why the U.S., not India, is the problem.” And we’re joined by Mitzi Tan, a Filipina climate justice activist who was in Glasgow but is now in the Netherlands, headed back to the Philippines. She’s a spokesperson for Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and an organizer of Fridays for Future.
Mitzi, let’s begin with you. What is your response to this summit?
MITZI JONELLE TAN:As Asad Remman stated, this summit was a betrayal. It hurts to know that the Philippines is so vulnerable in the climate crisis. We also know that all the world leaders are talking only about five to ten years from now. All they’re doing is pointing fingers at the Global South countries, erasing the accountability that they have and the historical exploitation and ongoing exploitation of the Global North. There has been little progress in terms climate finance and adaptation, loss and damages, or drastic carbon dioxide emissions cuts. Furthermore, we see that there is an emphasis on carbon offsetting. This is really just an excuse for keeping business as usual, to continue polluting and killing people today.
AMY GOODMAN:Can you please talk about who actually shaped the agreement? It was activists who were able to travel to Glasgow. Many claim that it was the most privileged summit because of vaccine apartheid. This was in the midst the pandemic. But who is this serving? Who is this condemning in terms of causing catastrophe?
MITZI JONELLE TAN: It’s funny and ironic, actually, that on the COP26 website, they said they were aiming this to be the most inclusive COPI believe this was the most exclusive. Apart from all the difficulties and obstacles that we face in getting to Glasgow, once we get there, COVIDThis was done to prevent observers from attending the important negotiations. However, the fossil fuel industry, the lobbyists for fossil fuels, had over 500 delegates which is more than any other country. They were always welcomed, given the platform and given space. As you can see, once again, U.N. Climate Summit prioritized voices of those who are privileged, and not those who are most affected.
AMY GOODMAN: So, this whole issue of coal, instead of “phasing out,” “phasing down.” You’re going back to the Philippines, your home. Can you speak about the role of banks? Standard Chartered Bank funded fossil fuel companies in the Philippines and elsewhere. You always have this global focus.
MITZI JONELLE TAN:I strongly believe that all countries in this phase should be phasing down the fossil fuel industry. That doesn’t just stop at coal, but also oil and gas, which the U.S. and the U.K. conveniently took out of the text, while putting all the blame on India, the “phase down,” by calling it “phase down” instead of “phase out.”
But it gets rid of the accountability that when we’re phasing out the fossil fuel industry, there has to be reparations from the Global North countries, who are historically responsible, so that countries in the Global South, like the Philippines, are able to adapt and transition without having that burden of going into debt to these Global North countries and banks like Standard Chartered Bank, which is the greatest funder of fossil fuels in the Philippines. They also fund Adani in India and fossil fuel companies Indonesia. And these banks, they should be the ones who are — instead of funding the fossil fuel industry, but really supporting the transition in our countries, not just for renewable energy but also for adaptation and to help minimize the loss and damages to their markets also.
AMY GOODMAN:I would like to return to President Alok Sharma, COP26. He blamed India & China for the watering down of the coal text.
ALOK SHARMA: For the very first time in any of these conferences, the word “coal” is actually reflected in the text. This is another first. Yes, of course, I would have liked to ensure that we maintain the phaseout rather than changing the wording to “phase down.” But, you know, on the way to phasing out, you’ve got to phase down. However, we must ensure that we keep working on the deal and on the commitments. China and India will have to explain to some of the most vulnerable countries what they did regarding coal.
AMY GOODMAN: Brandon Wu’s response, director of policy and campaigns at ActionAid USA. You wrote this piece, “Fossil Fuels in the COP Decision Text: Why the U.S., not India, is the problem.” So, your response?
BRANDON WU: I find that statement from Alok Sharma just absolutely outrageous, to point the finger at India and China at the time when the United States, in two days, is about to open the largest lease sale for offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in the country’s history. I mean, let’s look at the real climate criminals here. And if you look at that decision text that talks about phasing down coal, it talks about phasing down, quote, “unabated coal,” and it doesn’t mention oil and gas at all. It leaves open these enormous loopholes, again, for the oil and gas industries, particularly in rich countries, and for potentially public financing for things like carbon capture and storage, or what might be called abated coal, and those are technologies that — well, we know they don’t work, but they’re also incredibly expensive at scale, and so only really accessible to rich countries.
And it’s interesting that a couple days before that closing plenary, India actually suggested stronger text on fossil fuel phasedown or phaseout that would cover all fossil fuels in an equitable manner. This last part is crucial because it would require rich countries to act quickly and first, which would be the best thing for the planet. The United States has been against equity in any way since the beginning of U.N. climate negotiations. Therefore, the stronger text was essentially doomed because of U.S. resistance. And so, instead, we got some finger-pointing at the end towards India, but I would argue they’re really not who we should be focusing on. The real climate criminals are the wealthy countries, like the United States, that are trying to look like heroes, scapegoating others, and still planning massive oil and gas expansions behind everybody’s back.
AMY GOODMAN:Today, President Biden will sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill. A lot of the media is completely focused on the rising gas prices and saying that it’s partly the reason why Biden is at an all-time low in popularity. Brandon, what can you do to change this?
BRANDON WU:I would argue that Biden is not popular because his administration and Democratic trifecta haven’t delivered anything concrete for Americans in terms of the infrastructure package our country needs. So the original Build back Better agenda was $3.5 trillion. We knew that that wasn’t enough. We knew that this wasn’t enough. Instead, we got this bipartisan agreement, which was even further watered down.
We need the full Build Back Better agenda to be a stepping stone for more. That package contains climate legislation. This is the stepping stone that we need. That’s not anywhere close to the U.S. fair share of climate action globally. That is not global justice in itself — right? — if we pass the full agenda. But this is something that would provide immediate and meaningful benefits for the citizens of this nation. This is what this administration must do to gain popularity.
AMY GOODMAN: Supposedly, they’re setting Friday to have a vote on the Build Back Better portion of the infrastructure bill, the social safety net infrastructure. But I wanted to get your comment on John Kerry’s comments, the U.S. climate envoy, responding to the Glasgow Pact Saturday.
JOHN KERRY:So, I would argue that Paris built the arena, while Glasgow starts the race. And tonight, the start gun was fired. We have approximately nine years to make those crucial decisions we were warned of in 2018. IPCCWe have the years, the decisive ten years, to cut 45% of global carbon emissions and still keep the 1.5.
AMY GOODMAN:Kerry was Secretary of State at the Paris Agreement under Obama. Brandon Wu, your response?
BRANDON WU:This Glasgow act of climate action was the beginning gun. It erases nearly two decades of inaction from rich countries. We’ve been at these negotiations for 26 years. And for 26 years, wealthy countries like the United States have failed to reduce our emissions, even though we know that’s what we must do to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis. And so, what Kerry is doing by saying, “This is the starting gun right now. We have 10 years, starting now,” is he’s erasing history. He’s erasing a history of climate colonialism in which the United States is the primary culprit.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about this night’s virtual summit that’s planned between the Chinese leader and the U.S. leader, between Biden and Xi, and what you want to see happen?
BRANDON WU:I want to see cooperation and solidarity. I want to see the United States making clear that we are actually willing to take steps to do our fair share — and I’m talking specifically about climate here, right? I think U.S.-China cooperation — these are two major economies. There’s so much saber-rattling and xenophobia in the discourse among U.S. politicians about China. It would be a positive thing if the Biden administration could engage diplomatically with China in a responsible manner.
But we have to be able to come forward with real commitments that are appropriate to our fair share as the world’s largest carbon polluter, as the world’s massive military superpower. And we cannot just continue to engage in — we can’t continue to see China as an adversary, right? Not just an economic adversary, but a security threat is the way that China is being framed by a lot of American politicians, and that’s incredibly dangerous.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with Mitzi Tan. Mitzi, you’re in the Netherlands. You’re heading back to the Philippines, where climate now is usually right around — I mean, this was early for the climate summit. It’s always devastating the Philippines at around this time. You’re a spokesperson for international Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines. What are your plans this year? Next year, COPIt is supposed to be in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. What are your plans? How can you make sure these COPs do not fail each year?
MITZI JONELLE TAN: It’s an interesting climate summit that will be happening next year in a country where striking and protesting is not exactly very welcome. But it can be sure that the youth will continue to mobilize, because we understand that changes will not happen within this U.N. climate summit, because these summits are also just a product of the imperialist, colonialist, profit-oriented system that we’re in today. We must get rid the system that brought about the climate crisis.
That is possible only if people continue to unite, show solidarity, and come out on the streets to fight for climate justice. This is exactly the role that the youth climate movement has for the next one year, for the next twelve months, and every day thereafter. We will continue to connect with the most marginalized sections of society and increase the voices of environmental defenders. That is all that is required. That is collaboration, coalition and unity, something that our world leaders should be doing but aren’t doing right now.
AMY GOODMAN:Mitzi Tan, I would like to thank you for being there, Filipina climate advocate, international spokesperson for Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and organizer with Fridays for Future and Fridays for Future Most Affected Peoples and Areas. You spoke to us from the Netherlands and Brandon Wu (director of policy and campaign, ActionAid). USA. We’ll link to your piece, “Fossil Fuels in the COP Decision Text: Why the U.S., not India, is the problem.”
Next up, we speak to an Indigenous leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon who attended Glasgow, and then the Reverend William Barber, why scores of Black pastors are headed to Georgia, as one of the defense attorneys in the Ahmaud Arbery case, the trial of the three white men who murdered the Black jogger — why this defense lawyer said Black pastors in the courtroom intimidate the jury. Stay with us.