My focus has always been on creating solutions outside of the halls of power, as people in official leadership roles with decision-making power often seem stuck in the vicious system. Consequently, I didn't set out with any great faith that the COP26 talks would deliver much good, and there was certainly not enough, considering the scale of the crisis.
Some leaders do make a difference
However, some official leaders can and do make a difference. For example, it was heartening to see language like 'reparation' being used by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She is quoted as saying:
‘Sparked by The Scottish Government's #COP26 commitment to £2m for climate change loss and damage, a group of philanthropy organisations [has] pledged already a further $3m if negotiators agree a new Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility.
‘The ball [is] now firmly in [the] court of #COP26 negotiators to get this facility agreed and for more countries to start pledging funds to help developing nations deal with the damage climate change, caused by the industrialised world […] – it is reparation, not charity.’
‘I’m proud that [the] leadership the Scottish Government gave this week, in being [the] first country to pledge funds for loss and damage, has seen our £2m become almost £5m already, and put loss and damage firmly on [the] agenda. Whatever else happens, that’s one positive outcome from Glasgow.’
It was great to see Vicky Allan pick this up in her article about what could be unleashed in Scotland as a result of hosting COP26 (and thanks for the mention, Vicky!) So much in this article encourages us to not give up hope but to keep organising and keep creating!
Fiona Hyslop: listening to the Global South
We'd obviously go further, and remark that our work on #RestorativeClimateJustice, the concept we have been proposing (as defined here: https://tinyurl.com/rcjust) is about supporting Indigenous peoples to revive, restore and maintain their knowledge and wisdom as brilliant custodians of the earth we all have in common, for ALL OUR SAKES. It's about respecting and learning from them, really listening – and listening to the Global South was a central theme of Fiona Hyslop’s forceful speech (Ms Hyslop was until recently the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture) on her motion S6M-01490 (re the publication of the conclusions of the Glasgow Climate Dialogues), in which she said:
‘We must act now, we must act decisively, and we must act in partnership with the Global South... We are one world, with one chance... Listen, and understand the words of those in the Global South.’
We are thrilled to see Ms Sturgeon and Ms Hyslop speak with such conviction on these issues and hold high hopes that other countries will take a lead from their words.
Our First Minister's language indicates that she clearly recognises that giving money to the poorer countries which are (so far) the main victims of climate meltdown should not simply be a way to appease our guilt, but that it should be an act of meaningful contrition, and that wealthier countries, corporations and individuals should truly attempt to make amends for the harm they have caused. I would like to believe that she would also happily add, if asked, ‘…and for what they have plundered and continue to siphon away’ (see here)
Trillions of pounds stolen
Of course, we (Earth in Common) believe that such theft (amounting to trillions of pounds a year, not mere millions, nor even just billions!), and the tax havens and loopholes which facilitate it, should be shut down immediately. No to do so is to render any ‘reparations’ of marginal significance but, of course, shutting down tax avoidance etc. is the prerogative of the UK Government.
Whilst the ‘loss and damages facility’ did not pick up enough traction in the United Nations Global Summit, and as all eyes descend on COP27 in Egypt, let us here in Scotland continue to build upon the positive words and initiatives, however far it seems we have to go. From the ashes of the COP26 disaster, let Scotland go ahead and create a new loss and damages facility, as pledged prior to close of COP26. However, let it be rooted not just simply in reparations (certainly needed) but also in Restorative Climate Justice (as Earth in Common describes it), for I cannot think of a better way to respect the Global South than to recognise, celebrate and support the solutions they can offer.
Building on a warm relationship
I attended several events worth mentioning. Most notable was perhaps the Scotland-Malawi Partnership event, which hosted the President of Malawi, His Excellency Lazarus Chakwera. He had a major role to play in the climate talks, given that he speaks for the so many Malawians who are on the frontline and who are already experiencing the worst impacts of climate change. Scotland must continue to build on our special relationship with Malawi, putting Restorative Climate Justice at the heart of it as an example to the rest of the world of what can be done.
Mr Chakwera indirectly acknowledged the strength and importance of this relationship between the countries, when he warmly referred to his visit to Scotland as his ‘homecoming’. I couldn’t think of a better foundation to build upon, and it was especially heartening that his ministers spoke to me about creating a new centre for Indigenous knowledge in Malawi.
Parallels between Scotland and Malawi
I was also honoured to be invited to address the 2050 Climate Group Leaders Network. The interest and enthusiasm of the young leaders was certainly encouraging, and I was delighted to speak alongside Prof. Kenneth Ross of Zomba Theological College, who gave a nuanced but unvarnished account of colonialism’s impact on Malawi. In my contribution, I drew parallels between what happened in Malawi and our own deep history in Scotland. We can learn so much from our own pasts (and we are not that different when you look hard enough, but that’s a topic for another article!)
CCPM: putting Malawians front and centre of solutions
The last memorable event I attended (last but not least) was ‘In Conversation with the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi'. We heard from inspiring Malawian speakers, Tapiwa Machinjiri-Gama and Aaron Kandiwo Mtaya, how the CCPM, which is funded by the Scottish Government, administered by SCIAF and implemented in collaboration with Trócaire Malawi and a range of Malawian partner organisations, puts Malawian communities front and centre of solutions. We commend them all for their excellent work, which demonstrates that Indigenous communities are far from helpless, as we have long argued. Full marks to the Scottish Government for funding such work!
Yes, certainly plenty to build on. Nil desperandum or, as we say in Leith, persevere! #RestorativeClimateJustice