COP26 Round-Up

Boris Johnson and Giuseppe Conte at the launch of COP26.


After two weeks of intensive COP26 negotiations, talks surrounding the final text of the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ continued beyond the deadline. As the meeting went into its final hours, COP26 President Alok Sharma MP pleaded with delegates to agree on a second draft text. However, there was clear opposition from countries such as India and China on language concerning the intention to abandon coal. What resulted, in the end, was an agreement of compromise. A commitment to “phase out” coal was replaced by an agreement to “phase down”, leaving vulnerable nations bitterly disappointed. Before striking the gavel on the deal, a tearful Alok Sharma apologised for how events had unfolded. In his concluding remarks, he said: “Today, we can say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees within reach. But, its pulse is weak.” Despite media attention focusing on the setbacks of the conference, there were some signs of progress – including a commitment from 105 countries to reduce methane gas emissions by at least 30% before 2030. Addressing parliamentarians at a meeting of the CAFOD All Party Parliamentary Group (also attended by the Catholic Union), Lord Deben commented: “All conferences fail in that they never do all that we want them to do and we need to look at it through the prism of two words: Optimism (that we will succeed) and Apocalypse (the risk if we do not).”


The Catholic Union has put together a COP26 ‘Round-Up’ of news articles, statements and videos from the last few weeks. You can access this content using the links provided in the paragraphs below.


For ease of access, the content is arranged under the following headings:

  1. Catholic Bishops
  2. Catholic Organisations
  3. Churches and Other Faith Organisations
  4. Holy See
  5. Overviews, Summaries and Opinions



Bishops call on COP26 leaders to maintain commitment to 1.5 degrees. As the summit got underway, two bishops called on governments to “act globally” and commit to supporting the world’s poorest nations who often face the worst effects of climate change. Bishop Richard Moth, Lead Bishop for Social Justice, and Bishop John Arnold, Lead Bishop for the Environment, released a joint statement emphasising that COP26 presents “a unique, unprecedented, and quite possibly final opportunity to engage in a meaningful global dialogue that will establish attainable targets and policies to address the ecological crisis we are living through right now.”


Catholic schools and colleges forming stewards of God’s creation. Nearing the end of the first week of COP26, two Catholic bishops issued a statement lauding the action and commitment of Catholic school pupils in their response to the ecological crisis. Bishop Mark Stock and Bishop John Arnold acknowledged that young people, while at the heart of the Church’s response, will have to live with the long-term impacts of climate change. They said: “Fundamental to Catholic education is the principle of the formation of the whole person and therefore it is right that Catholic schools are forming the next generation of the stewards of God’s creation.”


Environment bishop left COP26 disappointed. Bishop John Arnold, the Lead Bishop for the Environment in England and Wales, spent two weeks in Glasgow attending COP26. Although happy to be there, Bishop Arnold “came away with a sense of disappointment.” However, he made it clear that he hadn’t lost hope. In particular, he praised the Church’s response, particularly the younger generation and the excellent work being done in parishes and schools. He said: “As Pope Francis tells us time and time again, we’ve all got to play our part. We’ve all got our responsibilities, even though some of us may feel that what we do is absolutely minimal and of no consequence. When we’re all doing that together, we actually do make a big impression”. You can listen to Bishop Arnold’s reflection on his experience here.


Our vocation to be stewards of creation. Archbishop Malcolm McMahon and Bishop John Arnold, the Lead Bishops for Vocations and the Environment in England and Wales, issued a joint statement highlighting how the call to responsible stewardship of God’s world is the “original” Christian vocation. The two bishops stress that our personal vocation starts with discernment and prayer: “Our vocation as stewards of God’s world is the original vocation and has been with us since the point of our creation where we were made in His image and likeness. In this image and likeness, God invites us to be like him in caring, creating, nurturing, and ordering our world.”


The global climate emergency has a human face, say Bishops. As COP26 began its second week, Bishop Declan Lang and Bishop John Arnold stressed the importance of the UN climate summit to the Catholic Church. Reminding us that it is the world’s poorest people who suffer most from the effects of climate change, the bishops said the outcomes of the summit are vital to counter what they describe as “one of the most pressing global social justice issues of our time”. Read the article here.



CAFOD comments on COP26 outcomes. Neil Thorns, CAFOD’s Director of Advocacy, has described COP26 as a “major disappointment” to its partners working with poor communities. Urging countries to return next year with greater ambition, he said that concrete policies are needed to match the promises made to reduce emissions by 2030. Thorns went on to say: “Politicians have not had the honesty and courage to take responsibility for their actions. But the tide is turning.” Read the article here.


CAFOD’s Wrap-Up video. Thousands of Catholics raised their voices to urge leaders to answer Pope Francis’s call to action and put the world on track to tackle the climate emergency. See what CAFOD supporters did to campaign for action in its COP26 wrap-up video.


COP26: What needs to happen in the final hours? As negotiations began to draw to a close, CAFOD’s Neil Thorns outlined the actions he thought were still required to make COP26 a success. These actions included ensuring that announcements were transformed into swift action and compensating vulnerable countries for the damage already caused by climate change. He also explained that the presence of thousands of campaigners on the streets of Glasgow gave smaller states heart. Read the article here.


SCIAF reflects on progress made. SCIAF, the official development agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland, came into COP with three main asks of world leaders. First, to take necessary action to keep global warming to 1.5°c. Second, to provide climate finance to protect the poorest. Third, to make COP accessible to those from the global south. SCIAF’s Advocacy Manager, Geraldine Hill, reflects on the progress made in all three areas and whether world leaders are going far enough to protect the world’s poorest people. Read the article here.


SCIAF’s Round-Up video. SCIAF has released a video providing an overview of their actions during COP26. The video focuses on its work to help partners from Columbia, Zambia and Malawi tell their stories to those present at the negotiations.


Scottish Government praised by SCIAF for £1 million pledge. On 1 November, Nicola Sturgeon MSP announcedthat the Scottish Government would invest £1 million to help communities rebuild from climate-related events, such as flooding and wildfires. In a brief statement, Alistair Dutton, SCIAF’s Chief Executive, welcomed the pledge and urged other leaders to follow suit.



Church of England bishops respond to COP26. Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich and lead bishop for the environment, and Olivia Graham, the Bishop of Reading, issued a brief statement at the conclusion of the summit. After outlining the areas of progress at COP26, the bishops acknowledged that “negotiations always have some compromises and disappointments”. They also underlined the importance of keeping up the moral pressure to ensure that pledges are urgently turned into measurable action. Concluding the statement, the bishops said “COP showed us the unity of purpose people of faith can bring. This encouragement should reignite in all of us hope for our future.”


Statement from Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches. The Joint Public Issues Team has published the reaction of its partnership churches to the conclusion of COP26. In a statement, the churches said that the summit had not delivered. They also expressed their deep disappointment that the language on phasing out coal was weakened at the last moment. However, the churches noted that COP26 called for the phasing out of ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies and initiated a process to help communities recover from climate-related loss and damage. Arguing that the response of governments is not yet adequate, the churches advocated for further actions that “respond meaningfully to the magnitude of the emergency that we face.”


Quakers in Britain statement. As COP26 concluded, Quakers in Britain published a statement. Reflecting on the outcomes, they said: “COP26 has delivered tiny steps forward when giant leaps are needed… This is particularly unjust for people in the Global South who are feeling the first and worst impacts of the climate crisis, despite being least responsible for causing it.”



Holy See Delegation statement. On 11 November, the Holy See published a statement made by its delegation to COP26. Drawing attention to the gaps in the fields of mitigation, adaptation and financing, the Holy See called for a strengthening and renewal of the resources made available for these three aspects. The delegation also highlighted the issue of loss and damage, something that is “particularly critical to communities that are most vulnerable to climate change”.


International Mass for Delegates. The Bishops of Scotland invited Official Delegates, Visitors to Glasgow and the Faithful of Scotland to an International Mass in St Aloysius’ Church on Sunday 7 November. The Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, was in attendance alongside members of the Holy See’s delegation. You can watch a recording of the Mass or just the homily using the links provided.


Letter to Scottish Catholics. In a letter to the Catholics of Scotland, Pope Francis expressed his regret at being unable to attend COP26 in person. Describing the preservation of God’s creation as one of the “great moral issues of our time”, he warned that time is running out to meet the grave challenges presented by climate change. The Holy Father stated that the occasion should not be wasted, “lest we have to face God’s judgement for our failure to be faithful stewards of the world he has entrusted to our care”.


Pope’s Message to COP26. On 2 November 2021, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin read an excerpt from Pope Francis’ message to Alok Sharma (President of COP26). The Cardinal was the final speaker at a two-day summit of world leaders, giving Pope Francis the final word before conference moved on to the negotiating phase. In his message, the Pope wrote: “The young, who in recent years have strongly urged us to act, will only inherit the planet we choose to leave to them, based on the concrete choices we make today. Now is the moment for decisions that can provide them with reasons for hope and trust in the future.” Read the article or watch Cardinal Parolin’s speech to COP26 here.



COP26 closes with ‘compromise’ deal on climate, but it’s not enough, says UN chief. Produced by UN News, this article features a video statement by Secretary-General António Guterres. In his statement, he thanked the UK Government and the people of Glasgow for their hospitality. Speaking of the final text, Guterres acknowledged that “the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.” Warning that we are still “knocking on the door of climate catastrophe”, he said it was time to “go into emergency mode, or our chance of reaching net-zero will itself be zero.” The article also gives a snapshot of what was agreed during COP26.


COP26 Reactions: “Rich nations have kicked the can down the road”. The Guardian has compiled a selection of views on the outcomes of the climate summit. One of the opinions included is that of Amanda Mukwashi, the CEO of Christian Aid. She said: “After two weeks of negotiations, the voices of those experiencing the harsh impacts of climate change have largely been excluded and not been heeded. Warm words on loss and damage and finance for developing countries to adapt to climate change are not good enough.” Read the article here.


Official Overview Video. COP26 has posted an official overview video on its YouTube Channel. Entitled ‘What are the Outcomes and Next Steps from COP26?’, the video looks the last few days of the conference, the most important outcomes and steps for the future.


S&P Global: What came out of COP26? S&P Global has produced a short video summing up some of the agreements made in under a minute. For example, it mentions that more than 30 financial institutions with over $8.7 trillion in assets pledged to eliminate investment in activities linked to deforestation. The page also features S&P’s “5 Key Takeaways” from the conference alongside links to other articles. Visit here.


What was agreed at the Glasgow Climate Summit? This BBC article gives a succinct overview of what was agreed on emissions, coal, developing countries and fossil fuel subsidies within the Glasgow Climate Pact. It also covers some of the other agreements made between countries throughout the conference. Read the article here.


Featured image licensed under the United Kingdom Open Government Licence v3.0.