The Global North failed at COP26. The Jubilee Debt Campaign have publicly declared COP26 “a complete betrayal of the countries on the front line of the climate crisis” by rich Global North countries such as the UK, USA, Australia and EU Member states. The ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ does too little, too slowly for almost everyone. Indigenous climate justice activist, Tishiko King, says “Doors were slammed shut on Indigenous people in Glasgow, literally and figuratively”. The African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change have cost climate change adaptations for the Global South at the USA $1.3 trillion per year from 2025. But we in the Global North have not yet even reached the USA $100 billion per year which we promised by 2020.
This betrayal of the world by our Global North Governments is also echoed in our collective failures to act on food systems at COP26. We in the Global North invented industrial animal exploitation, and we imposed it upon the rest of the world. Yet, we have never held ourselves accountable for the devastating damages we are therefore still causing. We know that billions of non-human animals in farming, and those trillions still living free, plus billions of people, are continuing to pay the price of our failures: harm, suffering and early death.
We are seeing fierce arguments over just what proportion of new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are due to our uses of animals. But even the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) officially considers ‘Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use’ (AFOLU) to cause just under a quarter of our current GHG emissions. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) estimates that AFOLU emissions were already over 20% of our GHGs in 1990. They calculate that since 1990, GHGs from our agriculture increased by at least 8%. Over the same time, we have caused the ability of the Earth, including forests, to remove GHGs from our atmosphere to disastrously decrease by at least 36%. The UN says there is robust proof that these harmful changes are primarily due to the following factors: vast areas of trees being cut down, GHG emissions from industrial farming of animals, and from how we are harming agricultural soils.
We must keep emphasizing that the Global North has already emitted vastly more than our global fair share of GHG for all time. This includes around 90% of the excess carbon dioxide (CO2). We in the Global North are responsible for a gigantic estimated 1032 Gigatonnes of excess CO2 – about two-thirds of all the world’s total excess CO2 – in the 165 years from 1850 until 2015.
So, our use of animals for industrial food production in the Global North is a major driver of the climate crisis.
COP26 under UK leadership has failed. The next Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27) is being held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the world as a whole needs “rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions in this decade. Specifically — a 45% cut by 2030 compared to 2010 levels”.
Frankly, we in the Global North are in deep climate debt to the world, and particularly, to the Global South. We have a historic and global ethical responsibility to be ‘net negative’ in GHGs as soon as possible. We must urgently transition towards plant-based methods of farming. This is integral to repairing all the harms we have caused by our historic ‘overshoot’ in total GHGs. Trillions of lives are at stake: 8.5 billion people by 2030 – over 75% living in the Global South – as well as the billions of animals we breed to farm, and the trillions of animals still currently living freely.
We must absorb all the ways we failed at COP26. We have to continue to build an authentic climate justice movement that ensures that both leaders and animal farmers in the Global North are held fully accountable.
“We are in the fight of our lives. Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward.” Mr António Guterres concluded.