COP26: Rich nations betray vulnerable people of the world

13 November 2021

UK government complicit with the US and the EU in blocking finance for loss and damage

13 November, Glasgow:  COP26 was supposed to be a ‘crisis COP’, a lifeline for the millions of people living in a permanent state of crisis- losing their lives, livelihoods and homes as a result of climate impacts caused by rich polluting countries and corporations.

The failure by rich countries like the US, the EU and the UK to support a funding facility for loss and damage is a betrayal to the millions of people suffering from the climate crisis in developing countries. 

We are now in the era of climate impacts. Incremental progress is not good enough. What we need is concrete commitments to fight the climate emergency. This includes a rapid phase out of all fossil fuels through a just energy transition and revisions of national climate targets in line with the 1.5C goal.  

The UK governments insisted on organising this COP in the middle of a pandemic, in the context of vaccine inequity. What was touted as the most ‘inclusive COP’ turned out to be one of the most exclusionary UN climate talks in recent years. It will be remembered as one that restricted the meaningful participation of civil society and this cannot be a precedent for future COPs.

While political leaders failed us here in Glasgow, people will hold them accountable and keep the pressure on to ensure the Africa COP delivers justice to the vulnerable in the world. 

Teresa Anderson, Climate Policy Coordinator, ActionAid International: 
“This outcome is an insult to the millions of people whose lives are being torn apart by the climate crisis.
“There were huge expectations that COP26 would finally deliver real support for the communities, farmers, women and girls who need to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of climate disasters. Countries representing the vast majority of humanity pleaded for a new funding mechanism for loss and damage.
“But the wealthy countries most responsible for our warming world — particularly the United States — have blocked their ears and hung those most impacted out to dry.
“Frontline countries will not let this issue rest. We need an outcome that shows communities hit hardest by the climate crisis that the whole world is in this together. A decision at COP next year in Egypt has never been more vital.”

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International:
“Throughout their negotiations at COP26, our leaders have made choices that ignore, chip away or bargain away our rights as human beings, often discarding the most marginalised communities around the world as expendable collateral damage. Their failure to commit to maintaining the global temperature rise at 1.5°C will condemn more than half a billion people, mostly in the global south, to insufficient water and hundreds of millions of people to extreme heatwaves. Despite this disastrous scenario, wealthy countries have failed to commit money towards compensating communities suffering loss and damage as a result of climate change. It is bitterly disappointing to see the many loopholes in the COP26 agreement which bow to the interests of fossil fuel corporates rather than our rights. Over the next 12 months, we must stand together to call on our governments to take ambitious action on climate change that puts people and human rights at its centre. If we do not put our hearts and minds into solving this existential threat to humanity, we lose everything.”

Natalie Lucas, Executive Director, Care About Climate and Node Coordinator, United States Climate Action Network (USCAN): 
“This outcome, like most outcomes, appeases the most developed nations. It focuses mostly on mitigation when climate change is impacting people in developing nations significantly now. We needed Loss and Damage finance, we needed developed nations to bring money to the table to help countries transition, and we needed developed nations like the United States to do its fair share. This agreement is not balanced and is not fair. USCAN needed a text that was ambitious and equitable. Progress was made, but not enough given the emergency we face.”

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Managing Director,
“COP26 has been deemed to be the most exclusionary COP ever, yet we made our voices heard. We, the civil society, together with our negotiators from the Pacific islands and other vulnerable States, held the line inside the negotiations. Fossil fuel lobbies, and the lack of leadership from the historic polluters, are the main reasons why we are not yet seeing the billions we need to adapt to climate change — nor funds needed to pay for what’s lost. It’s an uphill fight. It’s an uphill fight when our negotiators are outnumbered by fossil fuel lobbyists 12 to 1. It’s an uphill fight when the UK government makes it almost impossible and unsafe for civil society to attend the climate talks. But 1.5ºC is not optional. It is an absolute necessity, and this horizon should guide every single decision made by every single international institution, country, and local authority.”

Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network:
“Today’s decision from COP26 is a clear betrayal of the millions of people suffering from the climate crisis. We gathered in the middle of a global pandemic expecting our leaders to take responsibility in tackling the climate crisis and demonstrating a renewed sense of solidarity with important lessons learnt from tackling a pandemic but what we witnessed was rich countries bullying and blocking loss and damage funding for the most vulnerable people in developing countries facing extreme climate catastrophes. As civil society we will continue to push for a funding facility for loss and damage and fight for climate justice in COP27 in Africa.”  

Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director and Lead Economist in the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists:
“Nations gathered in Glasgow with the undeniable reality of the climate crisis, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, unfolding starkly around the world. Richer countries — including the United States — had a chance to be climate champions, but instead failed to recognize the urgency of the science, evaded their historical responsibility, and prioritized the profits of fossil fuel polluters over the needs of people on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Current emission reduction pledges collectively still fall short of delivering on the Paris Agreement goals, putting the world on track for a temperature increase of 2.4 degrees Celsius that will lead to significant, even irreversible, climate impacts. The Glasgow agreement’s unbalanced outcome also doesn’t prioritize climate finance for developing countries. A proposed Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility to channel new and additional funds for loss and damage failed to materialize after being blocked by richer nations including the United States, Australia and the European Union.

“The final COP26 decision is overwhelmingly compromised by countries that have contributed most greatly to the climate crisis and once again denies justice for climate vulnerable developing countries. Continued failure to treat climate change as the crisis it is will condemn current and future generations to a world of untold suffering and harm. Instead, world leaders should heed young people’s urgent calls to protect their futures.” 

Dr. Ruth Valerio, Director of Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund:
“Despite some steps forward, the world is on track for 2.4ºC of global heating, subjecting millions more people to extreme heat and dangerous weather. The climate crisis is here and people are already suffering.
“COP26 failed to deliver on long overdue promises or heed the loud cries of climate vulnerable nations for any support in the face of increasing climate disasters. Whilst the pledges made at this summit have put some hope for a future below 2ºC on the table, right now these are just words. We urgently need richer nations to turn this into reality, coming back in 2022 with 1.5ºC aligned climate commitments, consigning all dirty fossil fuels to the history books, and finally stumping up the long overdue $100 billion a year to help vulnerable countries adjust to a more unpredictable and dangerous future.

“Climate justice won’t be achieved by a single person or decision — but millions of us will keep playing our part while we call on world leaders to play theirs.”

Marcio Astrini, Executive Secretary at Observatório do Clima: 
“Our house is on fire and the best we could do was to argue about the best way to call the firemen. We did a climate conference in hugely challenging times, in the middle of a pandemic, and countries had the obligation to make it count. They didn’t. Nobody living under increasing climate impacts in Pacific island nations or in Northeastern Brazil can ever be happy with this outcome. Progress shouldn’t be measured against the previous texts; the only acceptable metric is the IPCC, and in that sense COP26 was a failure.”

Yolande Wright, Global Director of Child Poverty and Climate at Save the Children:
“It’s encouraging to see a mention of children’s rights and intergenerational equity in the final text of COP26. But over the past two weeks, leaders have held the whole world — and children’s futures — in their hands. Children and young people have been calling on leaders to turn words into action, and this was their opportunity to see this through.

“Children and young people have told us themselves that their voices and experiences have not been heard in Glasgow. The children on the frontline of the climate crisis should have been systematically included in COP26 — this requires careful forethought and planning to be truly ‘child friendly.’ They want more than token opportunities to raise their voices — they want opportunities to influence and take action.

“We have seen tremendous leadership from young people in and around COP26.  The real drive to secure our futures comes from the children and young people. As the leaders of the future, children must be listened to.”

Elizabeth Bast, Executive Director, Oil Change International: 
“Compared to just a few years ago, the progress and momentum made in the last two weeks towards phasing out fossil fuels is striking. The joint commitment by nearly 40 countries and institutions to end public finance for oil, gas, and coal projects overseas now puts pressure on all countries to end funding for all fossil fuels. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, launched by 12 countries and regions, is the first diplomatic initiative acknowledging the need for governments to manage the phase-out of fossil fuel production as a key tool to address the climate crisis. It is notable that most progress during COP26 occurred outside the negotiating rooms. As the negotiations continue to fail to deliver just outcomes for people most affected by climate change, governments in the Global North must act first and fastest to address climate injustice, put an end to fossil fuel production, and support a just transition to clean energy.”

Nathalie Rengifo Alvarez, Latin America Climate Director, Corporate Accountability:
“Our future is disappearing in front of our eyes. We know who’s responsible, but who will make them pay? Corporations and polluting governments got us into this crisis, but they won’t get us out. Only the people will save us. Polluters should be afraid — the UNFCCC may have failed us, but we still have the courts and the streets, and we are millions.”

Amanda Mukwashi, Chief Executive Officer, Christian Aid:
“We were told that COP26 was the last best chance to keep 1.5ºC alive but it’s been placed on life support. Rich nations have kicked the can down the road and with it the promise of the urgent climate action people  on the frontline of this crisis need.  

“After two weeks of negotiations, the voices of those experiencing the harsh impacts of climate change have largely been excluded and not been heeded. Warm words on loss and damage and finance for developing countries to adapt to climate change are not good enough. Rich nations need to accept their responsibility, put their money where their mouths are, and  provide the billions needed. Developing nations have done the least to cause this crisis but have shown commitment to tackling it.

“Throughout COP26, people of faith have united with activists from the Global South, feminists, youth and indigenous people to demand climate justice. Our movement has never been stronger and this must be the legacy from Glasgow to keep hope alive.”

Jane Madgwick, Chief Executive Officer, Wetlands International: 
“Nature’s critical role in tackling climate change was recognized at COP26. Bold claims made by leaders about protecting wetlands must be matched with the policies and finance to secure and restore them. The world’s wetlands store twice as much carbon as all the planet’s forests combined, but about 5% of global emissions currently is caused by peatlands alone when destroyed or drained. We must protect and restore global wetlands from source to sea, including rivers and lakes, floodplains, marshes, peatlands, deltas and coastal ecosystems, like mangroves and saltmarshes, so we can move forward with limiting global warming to 1.5ºC.”

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy, CAFOD:
“At this critical moment when urgent action is needed to keep us within the dangerous 1.5-degree temperature rise the COP26 talks have come up short. We need to see concrete policies match the promises made here to make real progress on reducing emissions by 2030. Countries must come back next year with greater ambition. 

“Poor communities came to Glasgow with clear asks and shouldn’t have to compromise for the compensation owed to them from the rich countries who’ve caused the devastation to their homes, livelihoods and spiritual spaces. Politicians have not had the honesty and courage to take responsibility for their actions. But the tide is turning. Countries at the frontline of the climate crisis are taking heart from the voices of young people and those on the streets, and are pushing back on the vested interests who’ve dominated these talks for too long. 

“We welcome the real progress on the financing for fossil fuels overseas which the UK government has championed.”

Chiara Martinelli, Director, Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-Europe): 
“COP26 results give us a platform for keeping 1.5ºC alive by calling on countries to review their emission reduction targets by next year and through a pre-2030 mitigation work programme. This is an urgent call to the EU, when revising their Fit for 55 legislative package, to design it in a way that it can get us to at least 65% emission reductions by 2030 instead of 55%. Accelerating the phase out of coal, oil and gas, and fossil fuel subsidies, must now take the centre stage in the EU’s domestic climate policies. We are also very disappointed that the EU has failed to pull its weight and get behind the outcome that vulnerable countries so desperately pushed for on loss and damage finance.”

Sebastien Duyck, Senior Attorney and Human Rights and Climate Campaign Manager,  Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): 
“COP26 is the most exclusive COP in decades and as a result, it has failed to meet the urgency of the ongoing crisis. From the beginning, the willingness to exclude Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations guaranteed that their voices, concerns, and demands would not reach decision makers. We end with COP that has the least legitimacy finalized rules that will stick for decades. Rules adopted on carbon trading will undermine the integrity of the Paris Agreement as they established loopholes further weakening the already grossly inadequate emission reductions plans of industrialized countries.

“COP did finally find the courage to name the fossil fuels that drive the climate crisis, but not the courage to confront them. Negotiators have betrayed the social and environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement and rushed a deal that benefits fossil fuel interests, by opening several doors to a Pandora’s Box of false climate solutions. With climate impacts ever more severe across the planet, it is also totally unacceptable that the main outcome on loss and damage is just another dialogue. More speeches don’t help those communities in the frontlines.

“The result is a global climate agreement increasingly and dangerously out of step with climate science, the needs of peoples and communities, and a global energy transition that is accelerating. The COP’s failure to deliver real results will not stop that transition, however. The transition outside COP is necessary, inevitable, and accelerating.” 

Julie-Anne Richards, Executive Director of Climate Action Network Australia:
“Australians have every reason to feel let down by the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison after the Glasgow climate summit. The rest of the world foreshadowed their intention to phase out coal, to stop subsidising fossil fuels and to move beyond gas. But the Australian government treated the UN climate convention like a trade show for fossil fuels. Spruiking for giant gas companies and fossil fuel technology that has for decades failed to reduce pollution. Most countries increased their climate targets ahead of or at COP, Australia was one of vanishingly few that didn’t. It’s therefore fitting that the agreement to come out of Glasgow specifically calls on countries like Australia to increase their ambition next year. Noting that global emissions need to fall by 45% by 2030. It’s past time to reflect the ambition that the vast majority of Australians want to see from their government. Australia must lead from the front, not drag at the back.”

Catherine Abreu, Founder & Executive Director, Destination Zero:
“Consistently the missing piece at these talks has come down to countries’ reluctance to say the “F words”: fossil fuels. After 30 years, governments finally had the guts to talk openly about the problem of fossil fuel dependence at COP26, but failed to encode a bold solution in their final outcomes. Future COPs will have to build on the small step taken in the Glasgow agreements, and the new face of climate leadership represented by the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, to go beyond tepid language that ultimately serves fossil fuel interests. 

“Once a year the UN holds up a mirror to every global government and reflects the often uncomfortable truth of their action on climate change back to their people and to the world. The final outcomes of COP26 give us a clear image of where we’re at: united in the desperate hope to limit warming to 1.5ºC and avoid the most irreversible impacts of climate change; divided on the scale of effort and balance of measures required to achieve that goal.

“Keeping the hope of 1.5ºC alive requires collective action to drive a just and equitable transition to renewable energy and phase-out the production, combustion, and subsidization of coal, oil and gas as soon as possible. Fortunately, that global energy shift is underway and won’t be stopped by what is or isn’t said here, nor will the determination of people and communities holding fast on the frontlines of the fight for climate justice.”

Mohamed Adow, Director at Power Shift Africa: 
“This summit has been a triumph of diplomacy over real substance. The outcome here reflects a COP held in the rich world and the outcome contains the priorities of the rich world.  Not only did developed countries fail to deliver the long promised $100 billion of climate finance to poorer countries, but they have also failed to recognise the urgency of delivering this financial support. They claim to want urgency on emissions reductions, yet they continue to expand fossil fuel production within their own borders.”

Eddy Pérez, International Climate Diplomacy Manager, Climate Action Network Canada: 
“At COP26, Canada agreed to raise climate targets in line with 1.5°C by the end of 2022. To the Government of Canada, we say: we will hold you to this promise, because true climate action goes beyond press releases and happens at home. We will be watching to ensure Canada finally delivers on cutting emissions, while prioritizing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and a just transition for workers and communities. We will be watching to ensure that Canada doesn’t rely on weak offsetting mechanisms at the expense of communities around the world, or cave in to the interests of those who came to COP to delay action, create loopholes, and compromise our future. We leave Glasgow with renewed conviction that we must fight back against every fraction of a degree, to protect the people and the places we love.”

Simon Bradshaw, Research Director, Climate Council
“Australia arrived in Glasgow as the worst performing of all developed countries on reducing emissions and moving beyond fossil fuels. The Government has done nothing here to change that. Meanwhile, other countries have picked up the pace and left us even further behind. The message from the rest of the world to Australia is clear: come back in 2022 with a much stronger target for 2030 and a plan to move beyond coal and gas.

“The sooner the Australian Government steps up with a plan to drive down emissions this decade, the sooner we can start unlocking Australia’s unrivaled opportunities for new jobs and prosperity through renewable energy and clean industries, start repairing our international reputation, and start protecting Australians and communities everywhere from the ravages of climate change.”

Josianne Gauthier, Secretary General, CIDSE:
“COP26 could have been the place for rich countries to step up and take the right decisions towards climate justice, which is inextricably linked to the colonizing and extractive economic model that has been fuelling the climate crisis and crushing people.  Instead, this COP has yet again failed to deliver real ambitious action and transformation. This is a missed opportunity to change course and reach an inclusive economic system that supports healthy and thriving ecosystems and protects human rights and dignity for all. The most vulnerable, such as indigenous peoples and women, will keep suffering from this. There is still a tough fight for climate justice ahead of us.” 

Chikondi Chabvuta, Southern Africa Advocacy Lead, CARE International:
“We had hoped for a real plan, but instead developed countries only agreed to a vague two-year dialogue on arrangements for loss and damage funding without a clear outcome in sight. We welcome progress on the Santiago Network on loss and damage for technical assistance, but in light of the scale of the threat, it falls far short. When in my country of Malawi we are still picking ourselves up and trying to recover from the devastation of Cyclone Idai, it’s been very hard to witness countries trying to push hard for weaker text right up to the final hours. Sadly the U.S. and the EU made claims of solidarity publicly for the cameras, but behind closed doors it has been a different story. Despite pleas from the G77 and Least Developed Countries, in the negotiating rooms they are drawing hard lines on loss and damage finance and refusing to put forward the funds we need.”

Sabine Frank, Executive Director, Carbon Market Watch:
“At COP26, governments were meant to ensure that carbon markets help take the heat off the climate. They came up with a compromise that risks turning up the temperature dial instead of keeping it below 1.5ºC. International carbon markets only make sense if they support the climate solutions of the future, rather than giving the polluters of the present and past an easy way out.”

Jean Su, Energy Justice Director, Center for Biological Diversity:
“We’re in a five-alarm fire, but world leaders refuse to use the firehose. Failing to act on fossil fuels and loss and damage is beyond climate denial, it’s climate atrocity. At this eleventh hour of the climate emergency, we can’t afford this duress of diplomacy, where the urgency of the Global South for loss and damage is being stonewalled by the Global North.”

Aurore Mathieu, International Policy Adviser, Climate Action Network France (Réseau Action Climat France):
As expected, COP26 turned out to be a COP of Northern countries, reflecting the priorities of rich developed countries. As the impacts of climate change intensify around the world and the adaptation needs of the most vulnerable countries increase, rich countries failed to demonstrate real solidarity. Even worse, their refusal to deliver on loss and damage finance to support developing countries is a disgrace and a real betrayal for the millions of men and women whose survival is threatened by the consequences of climate change.”

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, said: 
“It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.
“While the deal recognises the need for deep emissions cuts this decade, those commitments have been punted to next year. Young people who’ve come of age in the climate crisis won’t tolerate many more outcomes like this. Why should they when they’re fighting for their futures? 
“Glasgow was meant to deliver on firmly closing the gap to 1.5C and that didn’t happen, but in 2022 nations will now have to come back with stronger targets. The only reason we got what we did is because young people, Indigenous leaders, activists and countries on the climate frontline forced concessions that were grudgingly given.

“COP26 saw progress on adaptation, with the developed countries finally beginning to respond to the calls of developing countries for funding and resources to cope with rising temperatures. There was a recognition that vulnerable countries are suffering real loss and damage from the climate crisis now, but what was promised was nothing close to what’s needed on the ground. This issue must be at the top of the agenda for developed countries as the COP goes to Egypt next year.”   

Cat Pettengell, Director Climate Action Network UK (CAN-UK):
“This was the moment for the UK Presidency to show true leadership by holding rich countries to account and delivering a deal that provided loss and damage finance and, finally, brought climate justice to the millions already suffering the impacts of the climate emergency. 

The calls from civil society and those who have made the difficult journey to Glasgow from some of the most climate vulnerable countries on the planet to offer their testimony and tell the world that the time for action is now have gone unanswered. We now double our efforts towards getting the much needed financing facility at COP27.

Cathy Orlando, National Director, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada:
“During the closing statements by countries the word balanced was said repeatedly. There is an Indigenous teaching from Canada that says anything that is unbalanced is doomed to failure. But what does balance look like? Is it balance when the countries that have contributed the least to climate change are suffering its worst impacts? Is it balance when the needs of the present are allowed to override the needs of future generations? Is it balance when the vulnerable countries in the crosshairs of rising seas and political unrest as a result of the climate emergency are sad and angry while many of the privileged countries that are not yet overly impacted are more pleased by the outcome? Progress at COP26 is not in alignment with the emergency we are in. Balanced is not enough. Balanced is not justice. We need to move faster. We only have 98 months to half global emissions. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia
“COP26 has betrayed the  poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable in South Asia by working on an agenda that suits the rich and influential. Protecting the interests of the fossil fuel lobby in the era of climate change, is a crime against humanity. This COP has ignored the basic rights of millions to survive and live; ridiculing the ambition of developing countries by not committing to much needed finance and technology to help developing countries survive the worst impacts of the climate crisis.”

Aissatou Diouf, Node coordinator, CAN West & Central Africa:
“Glasgow was supposed to be a turning point in addressing the climate crisis. Unfortunately, the developed countries, historically responsible for this climate disruption, have again shirked their responsibility and have not been courageous enough to finally put the world on a warming trajectory in line with the 1.5°C. They have not been able to take decisions that are equal to the climate emergency and aligned to the expectations of the most vulnerable. 

The conclusions of this COP 26 will not change the lives of African communities who live with the impacts of climate change on a daily basis, while they urge to make available and accessible climate financing, including the $100 billion, and to increase funding for adaptation in order to strengthen the resilience of communities in the most vulnerable countries.” 


Dharini Parthasarathy, Climate Action Network,  / +918826107930
Climate Action Network (CAN) is a global network of over 1500 NGOs in more than 130 countries fighting the climate crisis. More information on

Photo by: Collin Rees

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