The big question is whether it should have started. Covid or otherwise, the organisation has been so poor that many, especially people from the developing countries of the global south and their representative organisations have not been able to be here.
The result has been a half-cock COP which has produced the sort of inaction that is typical of rich countries when there is no one here to keep them honest.
The Presidency hosts did not tell the UN what the deal would be, so a record number of people were invited. When the UN arrived in the UK, they found that the size of the meeting was to be restricted, so those guests that had managed to jump through the hoops of vaccination, visa and huge expense found themselves excluded from the negotiations.
Now, we have the prospect of two successive COPs in the Arab world where undoubtedly the hospitality will be second to none. However, 2022 and 2023 with Presidencies who have shown little expertise and less inclination to support radical climate action, see the prospect of two more lost years, and we don’t have time.
This COP is not ending bad. It is ending bland.
There has been some progress on limiting heating and reducing emissions, and so there should be. The prognosis has changed from cataclysmic to calamitous.
There has been more progress in agreeing on how to handle adaptation – the responsibility of countries to help people deal with the effects of the calamity, yet there is still too little money to make it happen.
At COP, we have seen rich countries loosening the purse strings, but rapidly closing them before any money could actually be extracted. Two issues have come a little further than they were two weeks ago: Addressing the cost of loss and damage caused by devastating climate events in places unable to recover; and the idea that somehow, greenhouse gas pollution can be monetised.
The sticking points are largely around the notion of justice. Countries and people who have benefitted little from industrialisation over the last 200 years are paying the biggest price for the consequences. The poorest countries and people are the first and most affected by climate breakdown.
To remedy this injustice, there needs to be a transfer of knowledge, capacity, and finance from the rich to the poor. The Paris Agreement that every country signed says as much.
However, here in Glasgow, we have witnessed how the rich – countries and corporations alike – will turn every which way to avoid justice.
Furthermore, we have witnessed their willingness to increase the unfairness by excluding references to people’s rights and the transparency needed to ensure that the promises made are being kept. Lastly, we’ve seen how they will continue to massively subsidise earth-destroying fossil fuels.
However, it is not all bad. The civil society and non-party observers here joined together on the last official day to symbolically walk through and out of the huge COP site and join the thousands of people who have been conducting vigils and protests outside for these past two weeks.
At last, a sense of urgency and emergency rang through the halls.
With them – women, indigenous people, the young, the dispossessed and marginalised – marches hope.
Together, we can build the future that we all need, but it must start now.