What COP26 is and what it meant for the most marginalised and least represented

Redirecting our focus with intention after COP26

I had the privilege of being in Glasgow during COP26. My intention is to provide insight and go deep on ´what happened´ and ´what was left to do´ so that we, the inspired, the caring, those who nurture, mobilize, and organize, can redirect our focus with intention moving forward. 

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), uses the word united as rhetoric to diffuse the tension from their empty promises and claims to protect the planet. But when I mean protect the planet, I don’t only mean the endangered species and plants, but us the people alongside with all the cultural, spiritual knowledge we embody which was gifted through centuries of community building. 

What did COP26 do? That is an important question because in this movement to redirect focus we must acknowledge that what happened, what came to light, was already at the center of the conversations of the Black and Brown communities of the world. The communities in the frontlines, which continue to be tokenised and left aside from the main decision-making discussions, knew that these ´UNITED´ spaces did not represent them and would never propose the radical transformation that we desperately need. And so, the first redirection would be to redefine unity, and remove the connotations and disbelief that merely being in the same space with people all over the world is enough to say that we are UNITED… That is not good enough. We need to COLLABORATE, CO-PRODUCE, CO-CREATE, so that representation does not just mean having bodies in a space disengaged from the discussions. Do we see these power structures in the spaces that we are creating? where we don´t collaborate, but showcase without the element of engagement and consent?

I realize that I still did not answer the question. What did COP26 do? For the 1% of the politicians and lobbyists who played the UNITED card on the world, the conference was another game of profit, power, and status. For frontline communities and Black and Brown people, this conference was a death sentence and a great disappointment. 

Here in the UK where I’m writing this piece, saying the truth is looked down upon. But I promised myself to never downplay the crisis that we are in. If change does not come, we will face a global catastrophe that will affect us all. But it won’t affect everyone in the same proportion at the same time, it will impact the most marginalized first. So, my second point of redirection is redefining CONNECTION. We need to realize that the fight of the Global Majority, primarily in the global south, to protect their own spiritual, cultural cohesion alongside their land and community will affect the west too. It often seems obvious, but we are CONNECTED. The forest in Abya Yala nurtures oxygen for the globe, not just their territories. We are deeply interconnected, intertwined and merged in ways which this capitalist, patriarchal imperialist society has distanced us from. Do we refer to the resistance in the Global South as a fight that is not our own? Do we take seriously the ideologies and behaviours which are distancing us from our other fellow human beings? 

Motivation won’t take us far but feeling connected to what we do will! 

COP26 is yet another wake-up call for humanity to come together in solidarity! In reciprocal cohesion between communities from all over the world. Despite the lack of leadership from the UNITED crew in the blue zone (where there were very expensive drinks and greenwashing playing in the background alongside a 95% non-plant-based diet for the delegates)- The alternative spaces which were present like the People´s Summit of the COP26 Coalition, did just that. It provided spaces to come together and realize this movement as one. With experts from all sides, from areas around decolonization, women´s, land-workers, indigenous peoples, Black and Brown from nations worldwide, LGBTQ+ rights! That is impressive! And I absolutely loved it! 

So, my third redirection is COMMUNITY, we need our peers to reaffirm, reword and embody alongside us what we want to see in the world. Are we surrounded by people who are willing to have those uncomfortable conversations? Are we actively and consciously challenged by the people we are surrounded with? Are our movements filled with spaces where creativity is valued, where different ways of thinking and looking at the world are allowed? 

We need to stay together despite all the divisive rhetoric- We won´t give up! 

COP26 did not forge for the change we need. And so, my reflection after my experience at the conference is to redirect our focus to realize COLLABORATION, CONNECTION AND COMMUNITY in our movements. In this way we can aim to continue to work together long term as people. This COP26 ´UNITED´ game is confusing, frustrating, and even disappointing. It is time to look deeper and seek for values which can hold us accountable to our generation, and ourselves. I will never be able to provide all the answers to the questions from this conference. But I can tell you that change is going to have to come from us, the ones that nurture, organize, mobilize, and care for another. History is on our side. And we will be on the right side of it advocating for the wellbeing of our beautiful communities, multiple forms of life and our lands. We are that force of life that is in all and everything. So let us not get confused with the lack of direction that COP26 displayed, I take it as an affirmation: Climate change is a racist struggle, and until we are ready to accept this, in our movements and in the government bodies, we will not listen to the tangible solutions already available for us. COP26 highlighted the big irony, the liberation from this system which only seeks to destroy is tied with the liberation of the people which that system oppressed the most.

Blog by Melany Zarate

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