In this interview, Anika Schroeder, Climate Change Policy Officer at MISEREOR, CIDSE’s German member organisation, shares her thoughts and reflections on climate ambitions discussions during COP26. Anika has participated in 11 COPs and, as in every edition, her main commitment is to step up for the rights of the most impacted by climate change, often those living in poverty who have least contributed to the climate crisis.
What does climate ambition mean and why is it relevant in this year’s negotiations?
That means the commitment to action in all the three pillars of the Paris Agreement: Mitigation, Adaptation, and dealing with Loss and Damage. It also refers to the level of commitment to take over financial responsibility for the climate crisis and contribute to reducing emissions, adapting to climate change, and supporting countries to deal with Loss and Damage in other countries. Most people also mean climate mitigation policies when they talk about ambition. Of course, the latter is not yet involved in the ambition reporting of today as there are no commitments taken over by countries yet.
What has been discussed until now?
The Parties agreed to limit global heating to well below 2°C and even 1.5ºC -if possible- compared to preindustrial levels by the end of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear: limit heating to below 1.5°C is needed and possible. But the States only need to inform other parties about their plans and report on the level of success. Before the negotiations in Glasgow, the earth’s atmosphere would heat up to 2.7°C by the end of the century. With new initiatives and some more ambitious targets being presented by parties during this COP, we would get only a little bit less warming. Emissions in 2030 will be still double the amount necessary to stay below 1.5°C (having a 50% chance).
Do you think we will get just commitments from the parties on climate ambition?
I believe we can get a little close to it after this COP than before. But it wouldn’t be fair to the most impacted people to call this a fair outcome. I think we are over this point with all the inaction and false promises in the past, we can only halt the most severe injustices. We still lack clear commitments to finance after 2024. We still lack real ambition and while talks are still underway, we do not know yet if parties will open or close some possible loopholes in the Art. 6 Rulebook to the Paris agreement. The light on the horizon is that this is the first COP ever in which we talk about what is needed, like for example, ending (not reducing) bad practices, such as financing fossil fuels.
What could we expect for the next COP if parties do not conclude their work in Glasgow?
If the Rulebook cannot be closed at COP26, we have a severe problem of trust in the international negotiations and we will lose time of discussions focusing on the same odd stuff over and over again instead of focusing on the action needed.
But no matter what, the most important is -and will remain- the homework in each and every country: Phasing out of fossil fuels by shifting towards renewable energies, stopping destructive land-use practices, stopping destructive economy and lifestyles where the protection of human rights and care for creation are red lines in all decisions; and of course, supporting countries and people to prepare and deal with the impacts of the climate crisis.
Finally, what kind of initiatives should Catholic organisations/actors undertake to advance climate ambition after COP26?
To name just a few, first, we should be advocates for the climate and make sure that the Church uses its influence to talk up and pressure governments and the cooperation and ask for real solutions, no matter where you are from. The atmosphere and the oceans cannot bear with more emissions. Second, funds are being made available for those most in need and spent in a way that they really work on the ground; for this reason, if possible, work with your governments supporting the just distribution of these funds. And third, practice what you preach: no single coin shall be spent to destructive companies by the Church and its organisations. Scan your portfolio and shift towards climate and creation-friendly alternatives.