GNHRE Blog Series: Human Rights at COP26

By Annalisa Savaresi

The recently concluded 26th Conference of the Parties (aka COP26) to the climate treaties held between 31 October and 13 November 2021 in Glasgow was the first such meeting to be held in the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic. It was also the largest COP ever, with nearly 40,000 registered delegates.

The conference took place amidst pressing calls for more ambitious climate action, on the back of the dramatic picture of the current state of the climate, painted by the first part of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The conference was faced with challenging technical and political questions.

At the technical level, parties were expected to put the final touches to the so-called rulebook for the operationalisation and implementation of the Paris Agreement. The rulebook was meant to be finished in 2018, but negotiations on contentious matters, such as carbon markets, dragged on. COP26 managed to bring this work to completion, attracting some criticism from civil society over the integrity of agreed arrangements and their potential impacts – see for example CIEL’s reaction.

At the political level, COP26 was expected to narrow the gap between current emissions and the goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Parties were also expected to bolster financial support for developing countries, vis-à-vis the pledge to provide USD 100 billion of mitigation and adaption finance per year by 2020. On both issues, progress at COP26 was incremental at best (see for example the analysis provided by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin), dismal at worst (see for example the assessment of the Climate Action Tracker of emission reduction activities announced in Glasgow).

Human rights concerns featured prominently at COP26, and were discussed in some technical negotiations, for example on the social and environmental safeguards for financial support schemes – see the summary published by CIEL. Furthermore, human rights concerns were discussed at numerous official side events on diverse matters, such as loss and damage and climate litigation – the videos are available via a dedicated channel.

In keeping with its aims and objectives, the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment blog commissioned a series of posts, looking at COP26 through a human rights lens. You can find links to these posts here:

  • The first post is by Nicola Sharman who discusses the participation and inclusion concerns that overshadowed COP26, and the implications this has for the legitimacy of the negotiations and human rights from a legal perspective. You can read that post here:
  • In the second post in the blog series, Elisa Morgera and Mitchell Lennan reflect on the significance of the outcomes of COP26 for the ocean and ocean-dependent human rights. The post explores a number of critically important issues, including the linkages between human rights and the ocean, the human rights implications of ocean acidification and the need for human rights-based approaches to ocean-based solutions to climate change.  
    You can read the post here:
  • In the third post in the series, Maria Antonia Tigre examines what countries in Latin America have committed to, in the lead up to and at COP26. This fascinating post provides an overview of the region’s NDCs and commitments announced at COP26, and also looks at ongoing climate litigation related to thos NDCs. The post not only provides a valuable regional perspective, but also highlights a number of critical issues and failings at COP26 more broadly. 
    You can read the post here:
  • In the fourth post in the COP26 Blog Series, Sara Seck and Meinhard Doelle discuss the critical issue of loss and damage. They argue that, despite its importance, loss and damage remains at the margins of the climate negotiations and this has far-reaching human rights implications. This fascinating, engaging and in-depth discussion of loss and damage, and its treatment at COP26, is essential reading for anyone interested in issues of climate justice and human rights, but also in climate financing and responsibility. 
    You can read the post here:

This blog series is edited by Annalisa Savaresi and Dina Lupin.

Astrid Milena Bernal

By Astrid Milena Bernal

Astrid Milena Bernal Rubio is a Colombian environmental lawyer and a PhD-Law student at the University of Melbourne - Climate Futures Center. Formerly LL.M student at Pennsylvania State University (concentrations in International Law and Energy and Environmental Law). She is also a lawyer from the Universidad Católica de Colombia, a Magister in Environmental Law from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Specialist in human rights and critical legal studies from the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) Latin American School of Public Policy- ELAP.

As part of the technical team of GFLAC (climate finance group for Latin America and the Caribbean), she supported the creation of the MRV system (monitoring, reporting and verification) for climate finance in Colombia. In addition, she has been a consultant for the WRI (World Resources Institute) and The Access Initiative (TAI), working as the National researcher for the Environmental Democracy Index (EDI). Also, she has worked as a consultant for AVINA Foundation, The Bogotá’s drainage and sewerage company (EAAB), Green Faith (NY based NGO), Brighter Green (NY based NGO) and worked as Campaign coordinator against unsustainable livestock production at the Global Forest Coalition. Astrid has worked as a lawyer and researcher on issues associated with public participation, access to information, forests, carbon markets, Just Energy transition and rights of indigenous peoples and rural communities in Colombia.

Astrid was a volunteer for the Network for Environmental Justice in Colombia and promoted the creation and growth of the climate justice division at the Environment and Society Association (AAS) of Colombia. Astrid was a senior research coordinator in a joint research project with UNICEF to contribute to the fulfilment of the SDGs (6), focusing its work on guaranteeing the rights of access to sanitation for rural, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations in Colombia. She is also part of the founders of the Colombian NGO- CAMBIUM (Climate, Environment and Research-Action Uniting Worlds). This organization aims to, directly and indirectly, influence processes carried out by civil society and decision-makers related to climate change.

Astrid also supported the work of Pivot Point and the CLARA group (Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance), promoting the understanding and participation of CSOs to ensure higher ambition of NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) in Spanish speakers countries through the website

Astrid was a research assistant at Penn State University identifying how different kinds of transboundary river basin organizations have written and used dispute resolution mechanisms in both the bilateral agreements between the US, Mexico and Canada (NAFTA-USMCA) and the Autonomous Binational Authority of the Basin of Lake Titicaca (Bolivia, Peru).

Astrid was one of the members of the core team in the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), and she is part of the global network of environmental lawyers (ELAW). In her free time, she collaborates as a volunteer for The Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition- CAIR coalition.