'If all the commitments are honoured, it is said we could be heading for 1.6–1.8C, which could have been a lot worse.’
2021 was dominated by the twenty-sixth UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), with witness and discernment leading up to the gathering. Friends started preparing early with pilgrimages, relays, banner-making and art, including the Loving Earth project and the Pilgrimage for COP26, organised by Jonathan Baxter, who attends Glasgow Meeting.
Glasgow was ‘totally abuzz’, Alastair McIntosh, from Glasgow Meeting, told the Friend, where throughout the two-week summit, Quakers held a rich programme of events. This included a session with Young Friends from around the world sharing their climate change experiences, organised by Friends World Consultation Committee (FWCC).
As over 100 world leaders gathered at the Scottish Event Campus on 31 October, Friends from around the globe convened at the city, culminating in a joint Pilgrims’ Procession on 30 October, organised by Extinction Rebellion, and, later, a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on 6 November, with significant marches in Glasgow, London, Leeds and Manchester.
Local Meetings held the summit in the Light, while a small staff team from Britain Yearly Meeting raised the issues of loss and damage at the summit, and amplified the voices of marginalised communities that bear the brunt of the crisis.
Ultimately, the conference was branded a ‘disappointment’ with BYM saying that the conference had delivered ‘tiny steps forward when giant leaps are needed’. It was particularly disappointed by the lack of finance for loss and damage.
Martin Mansell, from Glasgow Meeting, told the Friend that there were achievements. ‘This COP finalised the Paris Agreement Implementation Rulebook after some four years of arguing, and the 1.5C target is still there. If all the commitments are honoured, it is said we could be heading for 1.6–1.8C, which could have been a lot worse.’
The main job now, he said, is to ensure that the commitments made are fulfilled. Quakers pledged to continue their work for climate justice, with Olivia Hanks of BYM urging Friends to ‘take heart from the extraordinary work we have done together’.
As the year drew to a close, Paul Parker told Meeting for Suffering, on 11 December, that at a vigil towards the end of COP, he felt the ‘great tide’ of prayers, and found himself in floods of tears. It had been about much more than carbon costing, he said.
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