My experience at COP26

So far, COP 26 has been a mixture of political apathy, but also political cohesiveness. The public and various NGOs have joined together to try and influence these negotiations and decisions with a somewhat significant effect. 

More has happened at this COP than any before. But too many promises and pledges have been made and not enough action has been taken. There is yet to be an agreement that all 197 countries have signed, but there have been some major movements and promises made towards a more environmental future. 

These include an agreement made by over 100 countries, including Brazil, to cut back deforestation by 2030. The EU and the US have also developed a partnership to reduce methane levels in the atmosphere. The greenhouse gas methane is a major contributor to global warming, a far stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but much shorter lived; without the signatures of US and China, the world’s coal biggest users, 40 countries have signed to reduce and remove fossil fuel from their economic systems. 

They have also agreed to support other countries in their transition towards more sustainable economies. 450 banks and financial companies around the world, that control around $130 trillion between them, have promised to move towards cleaner, greener economies and to try to shift their financial investments away from the current fossil fuel industry. The Prime Minister of India has agreed to set very ambitious targets for India’s carbon emission reduction up to 2030 and the UK has promised to force large companies to demonstrate plans of how they intend to hit the UK’s climate targets. 

I was lucky enough to attend COP with the WWF as one of their youth ambassadors. WWF was present at COP with their large array of scientists, influencers and networks in order to try and negotiate with the world leaders in the blue zone to promote their actions and goals.

My time with WWF was spent mentoring both others and myself, large quantities of media content gathering for spreading the word over social media and to those not able to come to the event, as well as meeting and networking with an array of scientists and WWF staff at the conference. WWF held various events including their Walrus from space, a new initiative allowing the public to be involved in the scientific research behind walrus population studies.

Last Saturday, the WWF led a large portion of the climate strike made up of 100,000 other protesters from across the globe marching towards Glasgow Green. One of our Youth Ambassadors helped initiate the march with a speech alongside Chris Packham and Cel Spellman. Our goal? To encourage the World’s leaders to set more ambitious climate agreements and to initiate better and firmer action. The march itself was led by the indigenous communities that were present at COP many of which are from South America, the forefront of the fight for nature.

Overall, the sense amongst the various delegates, the public, and the NGOs present was a hopeful, but not a particularly encouraged one. We all understood the gravity of the event, the importance of this conference and that it was essentially our final chance before the tipping point for the world’s nature. But, when speaking to various members working in the blue zone who were negotiating with the various politicians, I gathered that there was still lots of apathy and a lack of will to change. On the flip side, I did gather the sense that the governments understood that it was time to change and that it is either now or never. 

Personally, coming away from the event I feel somewhat hopeful. There have been many positive agreements made, but there have also been many opportunists missed such as countries failing to create a $100 billion fund for developing countries to catch up with those that are already working on their climate cutback initiatives. The majority of COP’s work and progress will be seen in the coming weeks and months. Boris Johnson returned to COP26 to promote Britain’s encouragement to other world leaders and to ask for them to give it everything they have.

Will COP26 have been a turning point for nature? Only time will tell. 

Featured Image: taken by Ollie at COP26

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