Pagans expect COP26 to do more

GLASGOW, Scotland – As the United Nations Climate Action Conference (COP26), enters its last few days, there has been a flurry of announcements by nations hoping to convince their constituencies that COP26 has been a success. The summit, sponsored by the U.K. in partnership with Italy, began in Glasgow on October 31 and will continue through November 12.

COP26 hopes to secure global support by world governments to honor their commitments to the Paris Agreement cut their and emissions by 2030. And ultimately reach net-zero, that is not adding to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, by 2050. The Paris Agreement of 2015 involved 197 nations who agreed to limit global temperature rise “well below” 1.5C to avert the worst impact of a warming climate.

Experts have said that in order to reach that goal, net zero must be reached by the target date of 2050. One targeted gas is carbon dioxide and strategies to create net-zero CO2 emissions will be varied, including simple acts such as planting trees and the development and or scaling of new technologies to capture and store carbon.

The impact of COP26 agreements will be felt by regions, nations, and even individuals. The removal of carbon-emitting culprits, such as fossil fuels, will require their replacement with alternative energy sources for everything from electricity generation and transportation to home heating. It may even include limiting long-distance vacation travel by air and reducing red meat consumption. The effects of the climate crisis will be broad no matter which path is taken.

So far, leaders from over 100 countries that together represent 90% of the world’s forests have promised to cease deforestation. The signers include Brazil, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Trees can absorb CO2. The preservation of forests and replanting of trees will create and protect vast ranges of land that will serve to trap and store carbon.

Methane is another greenhouse gas culprit and one of the most potent. Scientists say that methane is responsible for a third of human-generated warming. Several dozen countries have joined to cut methane, including the U.S. which is targeting leaks from oil and gas processors in the U.S., considered a major source of methane release. Cattle production and waste disposal are also sizable producers of methane gas. China and Russia are both big emitters and neither has announced an agreement to join the targets.

Finally, major coal-using nations such as Chile, Poland, and Vietnam have agreed to move away from coal.  However, Australia, China, India, and the U.S. – the most coal-dependent nations haven’t signed on.  There is no universal agreement on fossil fuels either.

Perhaps the most significant announcement from COP 26 so far has been the agreement among 450 financial services organizations that have agreed to invest and fund “clean” technologies. Collectively, these 450 organizations – from public bankers to private equity- control $130 trillion (USD) in investment potential. That number is over five times larger than the annual gross domestic product of all economies of the world combined.

By changing easy financial activity that goes to fossil fuel and directing funding to environmental investment, bankers and investors will be able to offer cheaper funding – called “greenium”- to eco-friendly projects.

More announcements are likely in the next few days and the conference is being livestreamed on several platforms including YouTube. A current draft deal this afternoon, for example, calls for acceleration of goals listed above.  Some critics have raised that this deal is becoming a box-checking exercise.

Pagans have been active from the beginning of CO26 to raise environmental concerns, direct the dialogue, and urge leaders to put aside individual national interests in favor of planetary interests.

I spoke with Rev. Linda Haggerstone, the first LGBTQ+ Chaplain at the University of Glasgow. She is a Druid and the national interfaith officer of the Scottish Pagan Federation. Rev. Haggerstone took part in an interfaith prayer vigil honoring the Earth on Samhain. The vigil occurred at the start of the COP26 summit to pray and meditate for our planet and show unity to world leaders.

The vigil was organized by Interfaith Scotland and Interfaith Glasgow and took place at George Square. Rev. Haggerstone recalls happily, “I led our prayer between the Hindu prayer leader and the Muslim prayer leader.” She described it as a powerful and collective atmosphere to see the success of COP26 at this critical moment. She also said it happened in an exciting blur.

When asked about COP26,  Rev. Haggerstone said she hopes that the “participants of the summit continue to focus on cooperation over division and finding ways through the challenges”

She wants the COP26 to reflect on their spiritual connection to the Earth and recognize how deeply connected the entire planet is.

Rev. Haggerstone also added that she prays that COP26 leaders will listen carefully to the wisdom of Indigenous people. She added the depth of that wisdom is something we can all honor and she prays that the COP26 leaders and negotiators can accept that knowledge as both a practical and spiritual gift.

Rev. Haggerstone said that we have spent a long time harming the world and its time we spent our energies and healing “this home that gives us all we need.”

In her prayer at the Vigil, she said “It is the season when darkness grows, before the fallow time. When the veil between spiritual and earthly worlds becomes thin, and although we follow different paths, we call upon  our Ancestors of Spirit and History, Blood and Bone, to forgive us and help us carry on.”

The Vigil is available on YouTube.


As COP26 began last week, The Druid Order of the Oak released an open letter to COP26 participants which they delivered in person on the first day of the summit. The Order held a ritual to summon the wisdom of the Oak at Suffragette Oak in Kelvin Grove Gardens then walked to COP26 to deliver their letter.

The letter lays out specific expectations for the COP26 summit demanding 8 points:

    1. A workable but radical plan that will make the huge cuts in carbon and methane emissions that the scientists say we need by when we need them. Then deliver that plan.
    2. To make global happiness the number one aim and to end economic growth as a dogma.
    3. To bring equity across the world, particularly to women and the global south to help reduce birth rates and improve the lives of the more disadvantaged peoples.
    4. To ensure that ecocide joins the statute book of international crimes, and to prosecute those who commit it.
    5. To agree a fair shares approach to carbon as carbon emissions reduce, i.e. higher carbon emitting countries to make bigger and quicker cuts.
    6. To provide for reparations to countries and peoples that are most affected by the actions of the west.
    7. To ensure that all refugees are given sanctuary and support.
    8. To ensure a strong defence for the legal rights of indigenous communities and all environmental protectors.

Stuart Jeffery, Order of the Oak, member of OBOD and TDN organized the campaign.  He told The Wild Hunt, “The Earth and Nature are sacred yet are suffering through human folly. We hope that our message asking for leadership in the spirit of the oak adds to the weight of energy and helps achieve the necessary outcome from the conference.”

Jeffrey added that he and his co-signers expect “a plan for carbon and methane reduction that meets the needs of the future through to protecting those most vulnerable across the world while improving equality.”

In the spirit of the Samhain season, Jeffrey noted that he calls “upon those leaders at COP26 to become good ancestors to future generations and we ask that Pagans join us in this call.”

The Wild Hunt will continue coverage of COP26 in its closing days.

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