Roopali Phadke, Professor, Macalester College
Representative Frank Hornstein, District 61, Minneapolis
Julia Nerbonne, Executive Director, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light
Ellen Anderson, Climate Program Director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Representative Patty Acomb, District 44B, Minnetonka, Plymouth & Woodland
Kristen Poppleton, Senior Director of Programs, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy
Beth Mercer-Taylor, Co-Program Director, Sustainability Education, University of Minnesota
Great-grandmother Mary Lyons, Ojibwe Wisdom Keeper, Elder UN Observer
We were among the over 60 Minnesotans who attended the United Nations Climate Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow over the last two weeks. Minnesotans attending the conference included Indigenous leaders, students, youth climate activists, environmental and faith leaders, elected officials, renewable energy developers, health professionals, and academic researchers. Hundreds of prayer squares created by Minnesotans during the month of October and stitched into a quilt were brought to Glasgow by delegates from MN Interfaith Power and Light. Delegates from around the globe passed the quilt each day as they entered the main gates.
The climate summit ended late Saturday with acceptance of the Glasgow Pact, an agreement signed by all 197 nations in attendance. Nations have recommitted to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and finalized the rules for implementing the Paris agreement. New strategies include the Global Methane Pledge, the Declaration on Forests and Land Use, and a “phase down” of coal.
One of the biggest disappointments has been that negotiators did not create a mechanism for funding the “loss and damage” caused by climate change. This refers to compensating nations, like low-income and low-lying states, who are already experiencing the destruction wreaked by the climate crisis. We listened with a heavy heart as Seve Paeniu, climate minister from the now sinking island of Tuvalu, told plenary attendees that COP26 is “It is a matter of life and survival for many of us”.
We return to Minnesota distressed that more was not accomplished at this highly anticipated summit. We also come back with a renewed commitment to fight climate change, and work hard in our local communities to ensure that our state, counties, cities, businesses and all of our organizations uphold their responsibility and reduce carbon emissions commensurate with global expectations and scientific facts. This is especially urgent given that Midwestern states, taken together, account for 33% of the U.S. emissions, and the U.S. is the 2nd largest polluter in the world.
We put a premium on listening to the voices of Indigenous communities and youth at the COP proceedings, and working in allyship to not turn back the clock. As Ashley Fairbanks, Anishinaabe artist and Climate Generation delegate, recounted at the end of COP26, “We cannot disengage from these conversations, even though they are so frustrating and tiring. We need people in power to do better. We need them to hold corporations, the wealthy and the powerful, accountable. The governments of the world are too afraid to do anything big or bold, but we cannot afford to share their fear. Similarly Climate Generation youth delegate, Bella Garrioch from Macalester College, reminded us that “On the days when I feel hopeless, I need to remember that there are others who are with me, who are ready to see the possibilities and not give up.”
Working in coalition with our colleagues from around the world, we have held negotiators’ feet to the fire. We leave COP26 energized and ready to take the next steps in our state and local communities to ensure that Minnesota upholds the goals stated in the Paris Climate Accords and the just signed Glasgow Pact. Most importantly, fulfilling our commitment to youth and Indigenous leaders means that Minnesota must prioritize passing both the Next Generation Climate Act that includes at least a 45% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030 and the 100% Clean Energy bill which would be fully implemented by 2040. We need to accomplish this work by putting more accountability in place to ensure government entities follow the targets in their actions, and that they embed racial and climate justice in implementation.
If 197 countries can agree to dramatically address climate change, we can accomplish this in our state as well. We need now to support what was achieved and raise the ambition before the next climate summit in Egypt in 2022. Our collective legacy for future generations demands no less. All Minnesota political leaders need to hear this message from their constituents.