How was it to attend COP26?

Last year, COP 26 took place in Glasgow, where GLOCAL students spend the first semester of the Master’s programme. It was a special occasion for us to narrowly connect to contemporary debates related to the environment, economics and society and understand the current challenges of each of these aspects. In addition, we could see the practical efforts and commitment of the countries to engage the climate change.

We at Cop26

Essentially, COP 26 was the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It brought together countries to negotiate their commitments related to climate action and members of international organizations to enrich the debate on environmentalism. As a GLOCAL student interested in sustainability, it was a grateful surprise to get the chance to be enrolled in the most critical event to debate climate change by working for the Brazil Climate Action Hub, created by several organisations of the Brazilian civil society aiming to enhance the country’s climate action during COP25, in Madrid. During COP26, the Hub increased the number of activities and continued as the reference for plural debates regarding the environmental agenda.

The result of the two-week event was The Glasgow Climate Pact, a package of decisions stressing the commitment to turning the present decade into a decade focused on climate action. The most discussed decision was Nations assuming the challenge of uniting together to limit global temperature to rise to 1,5 degrees to achieve this goal. Industrialized nations agreed to transfer 100 billion dollars/year to developing countries. Also noteworthy were the discussions regarding the decreasing coal power and fossil fuels energy.

Brazil climate action hub

Although important top-down decisions were made, it is important to highlight the imminent danger to indigenous communities in Brazil as a concerning and historical problem. According to Instituto Igarapé, 80% of female environmentalists in the Amazon suffered violence. Between 2012 and 2020, 48 were murdered defending the forest. The number of indigenous leaders threatened with death also increased in the last decade, which shows the jeopardy for these communities on the front line to avoid deforestation and protect the environment.

In 2017, Bolsonaro, the current Brazilian president, stated that Not a centimetre will be demarcated either as an indigenous reserve or as a quilombola [territory for descendants of African enslaved communities].” Two years before, he declared that: “there is no indigenous territory where there aren’t minerals. Gold, tin and magnesium are in these lands, especially in the Amazon, the richest area in the world. I’m not getting into this nonsense of defending the land for Indigenous.” Besides, Brazilian Supreme Court is currently judging the time frame thesis, according to which only the lands occupied by indigenous before the 1988 Constitution should be considered for the demarcation process, a disrespect to the country’s history and to the original right over indigenous ancestral lands. These facts show how vulnerable indigenous rights still are nowadays. For this reason,  working directly in the hub created to represent the Brazilian civil society was a fantastic experience to engage and see the numerous local initiatives embracing the socio-economic challenges of climate change in Brazil and the powerful mobilizations of indigenous communities and organizations.

“It was essential for me to spend these two weeks surrounded by people committed to making the world a better place for us and the next generations.”

Man with a demand at Cop26

It was essential for me to spend these two weeks surrounded by people committed to making the world a better place for us and the next generations. Today, I can say that I wasn’t expecting to be that proud of being a Brazilian in an event to debate environmentalism, considering the Brazilian governments’ position regarding social and environmental issues. But after seeing the leading role that young Brazilians are taking in uniting debates on climate change, gender and race, I can say how gratified I am to see these people overcoming the threats and assuming the protagonist of climate change. However, the challenges are imposed even by our own government.

Finally, I stress that we cannot forget that our forests, especially the Amazon, are still partially preserved thanks to indigenous people, who are in imminent danger in Brazil. It won’t be possible to fight against climate change without the demarcation of indigenous lands. I conclude that top-down resolutions would not solve local environmental problems effectively and totally. Most of the Brazilian population is women, poor, black, and indigenous, so we need intersectional solutions because, in the end, these people will be (and already are) the most affected by climate change. This social aspect was the central debate in the Hub, through speeches made by plural Brazilian groups and testified by people worldwide. I conclude by stating that the Global South and indigenous communities need to be at the center of the resolutions.

Working directly in the hub created to represent the Brazilian civil society was a fantastic experience