COP26 Did Not Deliver on Rights or Justice

Publish Date: 
Sunday, November 14, 2021

Despite grave warnings from the scientific community and urgent calls from social movements, Indigenous Peoples and civil society on the urgent need to act at the scale required for a livable planet, COP26 failed to deliver. Powerful global north countries, and transnational corporations (via their influence over the process), protected their interests and elevated market mechanisms over the real needs of people on the frontlines of the climate crisis. The urgent need of the moment is not ‘the tranquilizing drug of gradualism’ or incremental commitments, it is bold, decisive action to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, and the provision of tangible support in the service of frontline communities and debt-stricken nations in line with historical responsibility and global solidarity.

As island nations disappear and millions already suffer devastating human rights harm from climate impacts - particularly the most marginalized, with women and girls facing disproportionate burdens- wealthy nations provided no real support for loss and damage finance. Those hardest hit have done the least to cause and worsen the climate crisis. Meanwhile the worst historical and present polluters, with the most available resources, continue to evade accountability and threaten global solidarity. The US and EU, amongst others, blocked progress on a funding facility for loss and damage, despite this call coming from the entire developing world representing billions on people. To put this in perspective, the fossil fuel industry receives 11 million dollars in subsidies per minute. What was offered on loss and damage was a ‘dialogue’ – the promise of yet more empty words. Meanwhile rules on carbon markets (widely considered a false solution), were adopted with significant loopholes and without sufficient safeguards, which undermines ambition and poses heightened risks to human rights, Indigenous sovereignty, and social justice, further endangering already embattled environmental human rights defenders. The ‘code red for humanity’ is not just the scientific realities but the lack of political will to do what is needed. The stark global inequalities of the COP26 process—rooted in long histories of colonialism and imperialism—are not surprising but deeply unsettling.

This was an exceptionally exclusionary COP due to vaccine apartheid and mismanagement, with even those who were in Glasgow facing unprecedented restrictions to access. Further, the corporate capture of climate decision making was on clear display at COP26, where at least 500 fossil fuel lobbyists were officially granted access. The barriers to participation of those confronting the impacts and structural drivers of the climate crisis, as well as the stranglehold of corporations on public decision-making, contributed to the weak and  inadequate final outcomes of Glasgow.

We will not be passive recipients of injustice. Thousands took to the streets during COP26 to call for real climate action. The ever-growing people’s movements will continue to mobilize and organize to hold big polluters accountable and dismantle systems of oppression, for the natural environment and our present and future generations, centering climate justice, gender equality and human rights. We have deep confidence that the people will prevail. In a powerful call to action, Kavita Naidu, international human rights lawyer and a member of ESCR-Net’s Advisory Group on Environment & ESCR, said during her intervention at the Peoples’ Plenary at COP26 (representing the Women and Gender Constituency): My message here today is that we fight back. We fight back harder, we unite stronger, we demand just and equitable solutions, we drag corporations to the courts, we smash the patriarchy. People power, Climate Justice!


Statement on COP26 from the Women & Gender Constituency (ESCR-Net is a part of this constituency):

Key Statements on COP 26 from members:

Relevant COP 26 outcome documents:


Our demands heading into COP: ESCR-Net briefing on loss and damage with a focus on human rights :