Whatever happened at COP22?

A great weight fell out of the sky. A cartoon figure, a frightening caricature of a human with unlikely hair. It landed smack in the middle of the careful preparation and hopeful prospects of COP22 and caused a certain disruption. Displaced fragments of plans and strategies flew all over the place, and some of them haven’t yet landed.


Scary slogan


But the business of the conference went on. It had to. At the end, the parties agreed:

“the extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide…is irreversible.” 


What was supposed to happen?

The Paris Agreement of COP21 was ratified in double-quick time. But the sum of the promises made by individual countries is far greater than the goal of keeping global warming down to no more than 2 degrees.

As Michel Camdessus put it in the Huffington Post

Even if the measures pledged in Paris last year are implemented, the world is on track to an average temperature rise of about 3C over the next 50 years. That’s enough to render many of the world’s poorest countries uninhabitable – including much of Africa.

The ‘ Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) urgently need to be updated in line with the overall goal. And one of COP22’s real achievements was to move the date for that first updating closer by two years – to 2018. Not enough, but a step in the right direction.

Otherwise, its achievements were to build the machinery for implementing Paris. This, of course, involves struggle between conflicting interests at every point.

Delegates and citizens came to COP22 with varying hopes. African countries, for instance, want the $100 billion dollars promised by developed countries for climate adaptation and green investment to be pinned down and actually produced, with a simpler system for accessing it. They (and other poor and climate-threatened countries) also want financial recognition for the ‘Loss and Damage’ their economies have suffered as a result of the profligate carbon emissions of ‘developed’ countries.

The ‘developed’ countries, on the other hand, want to get rid of the idea that they had to pay compensation while countries like India increased their use of coal. They wanted China and Brazil to be recognised as ‘developed’, to share the (denied) guilt.

Such conflicts of interest enter into the negotiation of every single clause and provision of COP21 and its successors.

Last minute

But non-state actors are more upbeat about COP22. Many companies have pledged to become 100% renewable.

The foundations for building a low carbon economy remain solid and stable. This is a matter of market fundamentals, which in the case of Trump, can trump politics. The costs of renewables continue to plummet. There are huge economic benefits from improving the energy efficiency of industry. And electric vehicles have become an everyday sight on our roads…

Tom Delay, of the Carbon Trust


We aren’t negotiators. We aren’t businesses, multi-nationals, or state actors. Our concern is to support activists – and indeed anyone else – to think rationally about how to mitigate climate change, how to co-operate to help countries adapt to it, in the interests of all human beings. We think all humans have common interests in this area, and its oppression and its legacy that pits us against each other.

Image may contain: 17 people, people smiling, people standing
Youth activists listening to a presentation at a SAL workshop

What we do

Using the tools of co-counselling, we run workshops and forums to assist people to tell their stories and express the emotions that go with them. Unless we do this, we cannot think clearly. Hurts from the past sabotage our thinking, make us blame each other and stop us seeing each other’s full humanity. It’s these unhealed past hurts, from personal events in our biographies and from oppression and injustice, that numb us to what’s happening and lead to climate change denial, putting profit above people, and ‘business as usual’. Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and text

You can see some of our leaflets and workshops here. You can see from these pictures that we used the ordinary part of the citizen’s area of COP22, to make spaces where people could listen to and learn from each other. Without this sort of work, denial, despair and discouragement will have their way with us. They will slow down the essential international co-operation – and that we can’t afford.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting


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