Community Blog

COP 26: A Double-edged sword for the territories of planet Earth

COP 26 has come to an end, the premier meeting on global climate change that was billed as the last chance to do things differently and save the planet from imminent extinction. The city of Glasgow at the beginning of November brought together the main government leaders and official decision-making delegates for global commitments, but in turn thousands of observers and activists were present inside and outside COP 26 to demand “climate justice”

Announcements from the Democratic Republic of the Congo at COP 26.

World leaders were expected to sign agreements and pledge to curb climate change produced by the current economic model, but at COP 26, what was discussed was a change in supply and demand. Many countries took the opportunity to offer their common goods for large companies to invest their capital.

When I say change in supply and demand, I am referring to the energy transition agreements that seek to expand the electricity market in terms of transport, which is called clean due to the use of “renewable energies”. The official representatives of Abya Yala (America) presented their statistics of the energy matrix reflecting the progress of the transition from fossil fuels to hydroelectricity as a great victory, but at COP 26 there were representatives of the Amazonian communities of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador denouncing the hydroelectric projects that have destroyed their territories.

The speeches of the government representatives were clearly synchronized with statistics and concepts that in reality do not coincide, revealing the little interest they have in solving the global climate crisis. Among the most important agreements that were discussed at the conference was that of protecting 30% of the planet’s surface from the declaration of reserves or legally protected areas.

The government of Panama, through its president Laurentino Cortizo Coen, mentioned that 33% of the continental land and 30% of the marine surface have been protected, placing Panama as a world leader in environmental protection. If we go to the reality of protected areas in Panama, we will find that they remain unprotected with low government intervention to curb the threats that reduce the amount of forest and biodiversity.

This example from Panama applies to many of the Abya Yala countries, which grant extractive projects within areas that have been declared protected by law. In other words, there is no guarantee that the governments of the world can comply with that agreement.

Indigenous Peoples Pavilion at COP 26.

Outside of COP 26, thousands of protesters mobilized every day and highlighted the march called on November 5 by Fridays for Future and the march for climate justice on November 6 called by the COP Coalition that brought together more than 100,000 people, which was led by indigenous community members. These parallel events to COP 26 counterbalanced what was being discussed within the perimeter zones, because they managed to bring together the legitimate voices of the peoples who have been defending the territory and implementing actions that curb climate change. It was common to hear in the speeches of the representatives of the indigenous communities that they only represent 5% of the world’s population, but they protect the largest amount of the current forest.

At no time during COP 26 was there a discussion of reparation to victims who have been killed for defending the environment, much less recognition of environmental defenders. This is why it is important to highlight the role of the COP Coalition that made it possible to generate spaces for dialogues between social movements and civil society interested in profound changes.

In my personal opinion, the conference of the parties has failed in the purpose of curbing climate change and at the same time has generated new territorial threats with its clean energy transition plan. Recently the Environmental Justice Atlas in conjunction with the Canadian Mining Watch launched an interactive map that shows the mining projects that are the basis of the energy transition in Abya Yala. In other words, extractivism as a model of dispossession that destroys peoples and territories is the new solution for the conference of the parties.


Written by Jonathan González Quiel

Member of Somos Abya Yala and Dam Watch International