Monsters, coins, and courage: What happened at COP26?

COP26 has just ended, and while a lot of ‘blah blah blah’ may have been happening in the official spaces between delegates, government officials and world leaders, the surrounding area was a hive of climate justice activity.

From indigenous peoples’ collectives, economic justice campaigners of the global South and North, to enraged children, parents and young adults, the message on the streets was too loud to ignore.

There must be action on tackling the climate crisis NOW.

National debts of global South countries have been growing in recent years, and 52 countries are now in crisis. The crushing weight of those debts mean that many countries can’t rebuild when hit by disasters such as floods and hurricanes, have little room to adapt or transition to a greener economy and are being forced to go into more debt to pay for the crisis. It’s a huge injustice at the heart of the climate emergency.

To add to this, the voices of the global South in official talks were being side-lined at COP26, and at points civil society organisations were shut out of negotiations. It was essential then, that the message of debt cancellation had to be the talk of the town.

The monstrosity of debt: Campaigning for debt and climate justice

That’s why we decided to do something to really get the attention of world leaders.

Our plan was to float a giant Loch Ness Monster, calling for debt cancellation and climate justice, in enclosed docks close to the summit, to show the monstrosity of debt. But our protest was stopped before we could get Nessie in the water.

Despite this, we received media coverage far and wide, from the Guardian to the Washington Post and even the Daily Mail helped our Nessie get the message out: that there can be no climate justice without debt justice.

© Jess Hurd 03/11/2021. Glasgow, UK. Jubilee Debt Campaign Loch Ness Debt Monster is impounded by police in a dawn raid at COP26 UN Climate Summit, Govan Dry Dock, Glasgow, Scotland. Photo credit: © Jess Hurd

Global Day of Action

On the 6th November demonstrations for climate justice took place in every corner of the world. Over 300 events happened globally, with 100,000 people marching in Glasgow alone. Jubilee Debt campaign supporters took to the streets handing out chocolate coins, to show that debt and climate justice are two sides of the same coin.

Our movement is powerful and together we are making real progress. In the words of Kate Taylor, one Jubilee Debt Campaign supporter “I feel re-energised and more thoroughly committed, inspired and engaged.”

Our activists in Glasgow: Suzanna, Jules, Tarun, Bryony, Clare, Harriet, Calum, and Kate.

The message from people all around the world was clear, but how did world leaders respond?

Debt and Climate justice: the verdict

There’s no way out of the climate crisis for lower income countries without confronting the debt crisis. This was the message that many global South leaders brought to the summit, and you helped amplify.

There was one piece of good news, as a result of your campaigning, debt was mentioned as a key issue for lower income countries. This couldn’t have happened without thousands of us calling for more to be done. But overall, not nearly enough was done:

  • The demands from lower income countries for a loss and damage fund to pay for climate damages was shamefully blocked by the UK, US and EU.
  • Despite new pledges for climate finance, the devil will be in the detail, much of this will be in the form of new loans, and there’s no clear plan to meet the existing commitments, which are still currently way off track.
  • There were calls for adaptation funding to be doubled, but again, little mention of when this might actually happen. Read this for more information

Although this is disappointing, we’ll keep fighting for debt cancellation so that lower income countries can face the biggest challenge of our times. We must not underestimate the power of solidarity, the power of our voices combined and the will of the people to fight for justice. COP was never going to be the end, it is only the beginning.

Thank you for taking action together!

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