Mercy Delegates: Highlights of COP26
This past week, Mercy delegates had the privilege to represent the Mercy World at COP26, the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The days spent in Glasgow allowed the Mercy delegates to share and promote MIA advocacy points as well as learn and reflect on how Mercy International Association can contribute to the healing of Earth and ending the climate crisis. Although the outcome is disappointing and there is still much to be achieved, there is hope in the small movements taking place and there is a recognition that much more needs to be done in order to prevent catastrophic results.
COP26 promised to be one of the most vital conferences of our time and was highlighted by major announcements from world leaders. From over 100 countries agreeing to halt deforestation by 2030 to more than 40 countries pledging to steer away from coal, world leaders gathered in negotiation spaces making commitments to combat climate change. Despite commitments made by governments at COP, there was a noticeable prominence of coal, oil, and gas interests in Glasgow. These interest groups worked to eliminate commitments in the outcome document that would obligate countries to phase out fossil fuels. Also of concern was the lack of commitment to financially support developing countries in adapting to the effects of climate change. While some developed countries have understood their responsibility to contribute, others need to do a great deal more to support developing nations.
Despite the significance of COP26, many of the communities that are most affected by climate change were not allowed access to the negotiations. The information world leaders and policymakers can learn from indigenous peoples, rural communities, young women and girls, and people from the global South is vital in creating concrete actions to address climate change. The Mercy delegates were disappointed that these groups, their stories, and their voices, were largely excluded or sidelined at COP26.
The exclusion of some of the most important groups made it vital for the Mercy delegates to be present in the Green Zone, which is the public arena for COP26. The Green Zone was filled with climate exhibits, movies, and side events that featured the voices of some of the communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. One of the most empowering events was sponsored by Radical Girlsss, a group that was started by the European Network of Migrant Women. The event focused on the importance of uplifting the voices of migrant women, especially those who migrated because of climate change. Towards the end of the event, the moderator, Bec Wonders, made a point to address the elephant in the room: the inequity of COP. She noted that “if migrant women or women, in general, are not at the decision-making table... aren’t on the other side of the river Clyde, clearly the problem isn’t being understood. There’s no respect, there’s no commitment to actually solving the problem if women like yourselves are not on the other side of the river.” Bec Wonder’s statement represents one of the core issues of this year’s COP.
In addition to this side event, the Mercy delegation attended others that discussed climate-related issues regarding the global South, migrants, women, and indigenous peoples. These events highlighted the importance of listening to indigenous, rural, and grassroots communities that have least contributed to climate change, but who hold knowledge and practices to stem its negative impacts, and provided a space to exchange information with other organizations.
The Mercy delegates didn’t just stay in the Blue and Green Zones but also participated in events outside of COP. On Saturday, 6 November, Mercy delegates joined over one hundred thousand people in a march as a sign of solidarity to prioritize people and planet over profit and to remind COP26 of its obligation to respond urgently to the climate crisis. They marched in the pouring rain demanding that world leaders step up their initiatives to address climate change. The next day, they attended a COP26 Mass at St. Aloysius Church in Glasgow. The service was filled with other Catholic organizations praying for the health of Earth and its people. It gave Mercy delegates energy as they went into their days at COP.
Despite their short time in Glasgow, the Mercy delegates are motivated to take their learning from COP and apply it to further Mercy initiatives.