Without activists 'COP26 would have flopped completely'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greenpeace UK's Pat Venditti

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Greenpeace UK's Pat Venditti - Credit: Daniel Leal/PA/David Sandison/Greenpeace UK

While the prime minister quoted Greenpeace to herald a successful COP26, the charity's UK branch has said the biggest efforts were behind the scenes.

The pressure group has said that what breakthroughs there were came through activism and pressure from countries on the front line of the climate emergency.

A deal was struck on the weekend at the climate summit in Glasgow after more than two weeks of negotiations.

COP26 president Alok Sharma seemed close to tears during the final stages, as the wording of the agreement was diminished.

But Boris Johnson defended the signatories' pledge to “phase down” coal, rather than to "phase out” coal.

He said: “Greenpeace, and I don’t want Greenpeace now to repudiate this, but Greenpeace said that as a result of Cop26 the era of coal is ending. That’s a colossal thing.”

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, had, in fact, 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."

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Greenpeace UK is based in Canonbury, Islington, and programme director Pat Venditti told this paper: "The Glasgow summit should have been the football match where world governments finally trounced fossil fuel interests. 

"It was nothing like that, but at least they managed to score a couple of goals that pushed coal deeper into the relegation zone. The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first ever to commit to a reduction in coal and fossil fuels subsidies. While the wording of the text could have been stronger, these remain significant breakthroughs.

“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. Without them, these climate talks would have flopped.

"Our once stable climate is now breaking down around us, you see it every day in wildfires, hurricanes, droughts and melting ice. Time’s up, we’ve run out of road, and as a matter of self-survival we need to urgently mobilise to create irrepressible pressure that finally ends the era of fossil fuels.”