Why COP26 was worth it

Eva Peace Mukayiranga describes challenges and highlights from the negotiating rooms in Glasgow and shares how she’ll be taking forward skills she learnt to COP27.

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Guest blog by
6 January 2022

Eva Peace Mukayiranga is an environmentalist and member of The Green Protector

A masked woman sits behind a desk reading an information booklet next to a sign that is labelled 'Rwanda'. behind her is a large banner proclaiming the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference

Eva Peace Mukayiranga reads a guide to loss and damage at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 (Photo: Jérémy Davies, IIED)

After waiting two years for the COP26 UN climate negotiations, I had big expectations for Glasgow. I’d attended COP twice before – COP24 in Katowice and COP25 in Madrid − and each time followed the climate finance track of the negotiations.

Both times when I returned to Rwanda and talked with family members, co-workers and others about the outcome, I was often met with scepticism. People question the effectiveness of the COP and how useful it really is.

When you look at all the devastation from climate change in 2020, the call for urgent action – and money to finance that action – rings out louder than ever before.

In East Africa, floods and landslides are increasing in frequency and intensity. Around six million people were affected by floods in 2020, from Rwanda to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and beyond. Livelihoods were wiped out as tens of thousands of hectares of crops were washed away.

This is the reality for my people. Perhaps it’s no surprise that they question the usefulness of the COP. Are these just big global talking shops? What difference do the outcomes really make for people experiencing the impacts of climate change first-hand – who are losing loved ones, whose economies are being destroyed, whose ecosystems are being damaged beyond repair?

Focus on finance

For me, when deciding which track to follow during COP26, I chose to align my focus with the context of my country and the least developed countries (LDCs) where the main priority is the availability and accessibility of climate finance. We urgently need climate finance to be mobilised to allow us to deal with escalating climate-induced loss and damage, and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

A woman sits behind a desk with a computer in front of her, and speaks into a microphone

Eva Peace Mukayiranga makes a point during a meeting at COP26

I chose to follow two related tracks: the long-term finance agenda, which handles the unmet commitment of developed countries to provide $US100 billion per year by 2020; and discussions on the new collective quantified goal on climate finance, set to begin from 2025 and whose details are still to be agreed.

These two agendas provided the space to discuss access to climate finance and the forms of climate finance, which are dominated by loans and leave us with debts. We also discussed the need for loss and damage finance – which gets completely overlooked – and the imbalance between mitigation and adaptation finance. 

Preparation and coordination are key 

To help me keep up with the negotiations, I attended the LDC preparatory meeting before COP26 began and the daily LDC coordination meetings. Listening in allowed me to follow progress of the different climate finance agendas, to get insights on the main issues emerging, and on the outcomes the LDCs would be pushing for.

The meetings were important opportunities to interact with the expert negotiators, to ask questions, and to get clarification. The most useful advice I was given to keep pace with the fast-evolving discussions was, “keep reading, reading and reading”.

And I was urged to get my hands on and keep absorbing material on the agendas I was following, not only during COP but before and after.

Eva Peace Mukayiranga provides a video update from COP26 while she was in Glasgow

Making COP worth it 

So back to the question about whether or not the COP is relevant, my answer is simple: it's about our survival. COP26 provided a platform to put in place policies that can change the course of climate action.

Yes, the negotiation process is slow. No, the pace of the discussions doesn’t match the demands for urgent action outside the negotiating rooms. And yes, this left me deeply frustrated at times.

But COP26 showed its power to drive long-lasting change.

My highlights of the Glasgow Climate Pact

While the outcome of COP26 didn't meet my expectations, it did set the ball rolling on key areas and started dialogues to achieve some of my hopes. It:

  • Urges developed countries to double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025
  • Initiated deliberations on a new collective quantified goal on climate finance that will respond to the needs and priorities of developing countries, and
  • Established the Glasgow Dialogue on arrangements for funding loss and damage activities

What I’ll do next: looking ahead to COP27

Being part of the negotiations put in motion my own thinking on how I can contribute to the process going forward and help make the outcomes of COP26 worthwhile.

Mukayiranga and Yared Abera, founder and director of The Youth Print, Ethiopia, talk about their experiences at the UN climate change negotiations in December 2021, and what lies in store for them now

I hope that building on the momentum of Glasgow will bring a number of concrete results including:

  • A well-structured loss and damage finance facility that has the capacity to mobilise and deploy urgently needed finance 
  • The doubling of adaptation finance, and
  • Delivery of the $100 billion per year goal in 2022 instead of 2023.

For me personally, I’ll be taking forward all the lessons I learnt, and all the skills I honed during COP26 on how to participate effectively in international climate policy discussions. I’ll be joining relevant technical dialogues with a particular focus on the loss and damage finance facility, as well as continue my advocacy work for loss and damage finance.

COP26 wasn’t easy, the outcome wasn’t perfect – but it was worth it.  As the climate crisis deepens, the hopes and demands for COP27 will be greater still.

Between now and then my plan is this: keep reading, keep learning, keep preparing. And keep the pressure on.

About the author

Eva Peace Mukayiranga is an environmentalist and member of The Green Protector

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