Civil Society Groups Walk Out of COP 26

At the time of this writing, negotiators in Glasgow are scrambling to finalize an agreement for this year’s COP 26 climate talks. They’re expected to work through today, and likely into Sunday. If you’d like the headlines, you can find some helpful links below.

But it’s a beautiful autumn day here in Colorado, where my young daughter and I just finished jumping in the bright yellow leaf pile outside of our back door, and I don’t want to focus on the pledges, agreements, and promises — the blah, blah, blah — of what happened in Glasgow.

I want to talk about something that happened outside of the formal conference, in the vast crowd of people who make up the “civil society” contingent at COP.

Yesterday, a new draft text of the agreement was released, with severely weakened commitments and several new loopholes. 

Civil society groups walk out of COP 26

So civil society groups from around the world stood up and walked out of COP 26 to demand just and urgent solutions to the climate crisis. These brave people — scientists, youth, farmers, parents, Indigenous people, trade union reps, doctors, frontline activists — marched together, chanting in unison. They carried long, blood-red ribbons to symbolize the dangerous red lines that the negotiators inside the conference had decided to cross.

“Climate justice now!” they chanted. “Power to the people.”

“We are unstoppable!” they shouted. “Another world is possible.”

The truth about COP 26 and all global climate talks is that real change doesn’t happen in the written agreements, much-lauded pledges, or flashy press releases. Does it make a difference when governments pledge action of one variety or another? Undoubtedly yes — they set benchmarks for accountability, build critical diplomatic pressure, and create momentum for the global tide of change we are currently witnessing.

But that global tide of change wasn’t created by them, and it isn’t sustained by them. 

Every substantial bit of progress toward a just, clean energy future is built on the ever-growing foundation of the climate movement — the people, like you and like me, who continue to take action in myriad small but critical ways to align our households, our communities, and our nations toward that brighter future.

If the people on the inside who control our governments and economies finally do their part to preserve a livable future for our families and our planet, it will be because the rest of us on the outside never stopped standing up and speaking out.

And I am not discouraged, because I know that we won’t stop.

We are unstoppable. Another world is possible.


Jessica Hamilton

PS: Want to do something right now? Please take a minute to write to your representative. Tell them to pass the Build Back Better Plan next week. America needs the climate action contained in that bill, and the world needs to know that America is serious.

Further Reading

“Who will pay tops the agenda as UN climate talks approach end,” Reuters 

“5 Things To Know About The Potential New Climate Agreement In Glasgow,” HuffPost 

“Cop26 targets too weak to stop disaster, say Paris agreement architects,” The Guardian 

“Key Cop26 pledges could put world 9% closer to 1.5C pathway,” The Guardian 

“What Indigenous Land Defenders at COP26 Want,” Vogue 

“U.S. and China announce surprise climate agreement at COP26 summit,” NPR 

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