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.