The outcome of the just concluded was not a surprise to gladiators of international diplomacy. The world leaders chose to divert attention to symptoms rather than clear commitments to climate ambition. Ab initio, the conference was structured to fail when the rich countries of the global north began to demand changes to the wordings of the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The Captains of industries and corporations hijacked the process and excluded the Civil Society from the preparatory process to conference. These resulted in the two disappointing attitudes that pervaded the COP26 meeting.

First, the leaders of the rich countries gave the impression that with science, technology and money, they would quickly adapt to any climate adversity that may arise because their countries parade impressive and undeniable achievements in science and technology. Truly, science has radically changed the way we live and have enabled us to do and create things that would have passed as miraculous two hundred years ago[1], but there is a limit to which science can save us. According to the pieces of evidence from the recent scientific report, we are already on the precipice of a global climate disaster these phenomenal advancements have accelerated.

Second, the leaders of the global north and their corporate collaborators see themselves as inhabiting a different planet from Africa and the rest of the developing countries. They effortlessly relegated the payment of the ecological debts demanded by Africa and the rest of the developing countries to the background. However, very soon, they will see the lies that they have lived with all along. Through the years, migration was driven by poverty and social unrest in Africa. However, at no distant time, migration caused by climate crisis will set in, and the current EU migrant crisis will look like a child’s play in comparison. The US built a wall against Mexico to stop migrants, but the problem still exists, because a wall cannot control the tide. Since the Berlin wall has fallen, any wall built against human survival will not withstand the human survival instinct! What is certain is that today’s internally displaced are tomorrows refugees, and the earlier the so-called advanced economies come to terms with this reality, the better for them.

It is worrisome and indeed hearts renting that the world leaders are not listening to the prevalent warning signs of the impending disaster. The rising sea levels, increasing frequency of flood, wildfire and widespread droughts have not made them think radically of stopping green gas emission.  India’s capital New Delhi has shut down schools and construction sites due to dangerous pollution caused by coal burning, yet India was against the commitment to phase out coal as a source of energy in COP26. It is not easy to comprehend what informed India’s choice at COP26. While her citizens are dying of pollution arising from coal, India chose to protect the present few beneficiaries of the coal industry to the detriment of generations of her citizens. It is not difficult to see the handiwork of corporations in the choice of India. One of the unanswered questions is whom India was speaking for during the COP26.

Indeed, the privileged access that corporations and their representatives have to decision-makers, policymaking spaces, and government institutions need curbing. The governments represent the people and not conglomerates. On the contrary, corporations need to be adequately regulated to protect our ecosystem and appropriately sanctioned when destroying our common good. They cannot be partners of the government to deal with the crises they contributed enormously to create because of an inherent conflict of interests. Fossil fuel companies and coal miners must not go to climate and Human rights negotiations venues. This opinion is not unconnected with their negatively and dangerously skewed positions against the common good. Unfortunately, governments protect and facilitate the involvement of TNCs in many of these spaces and so perpetuate the asymmetry of power that prevents us from moving towards the needed changes.

In an ironic twist, the Australian Senator, Matt Canavan, saw the nebulous phrase “phasing down” instead of “phasing out” of coal as a win-win because, according to him, the most important thing is cheap energy to bring people out of poverty. This type of nebulous campaign for the poor has made systematic exploitation of the people of Africa enjoyable for the global north. The question for the likes of Senator Canavan is whether the poor would enjoy his riches in the grave. The earth, which is now on fragile life-support, is collapsing to the detriment of the human species.

With the much-anticipated COP26 gone, the delegates and the Heads of government have returned to their countries without securing a binding agreement that would keep global temperature below 1.5 0C margin. They could not raise the needed funds, and some governments appeared blind to the imminent danger. Africa, the developing countries and, especially, the island states, left the venue heartbroken. As we watched from outside the COP26 venue, we pondered the suicidal failure: Was it the absence of economic will to act or a shortfall of goodwill?

Chika Onyejiuwa


[1] Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose 2005