Reflections on COP26

Centre for nature and green living

Reflections on COP26

COP26 march in Glasgow - banner reading "COP26, we

As you may know, world leaders, negotiators, lobbyists, representatives of civil society, as well as concerned individuals, met in Glasgow at the beginning of November for the 26th climate summit, COP26. The event has received a lot more coverage than the previous summits, not just because it was taking place in the UK. While Covid is still at the forefront of our minds, extreme weather events around the world have been “helping” to focus minds – from summer floods in Germany killing more than 200 people, to the rather less reported ongoing drought-induced famine in Kenya threatening lives of millions. Both have been exacerbated if not caused by climate change while Storm Arwen has brought the message even closer to home. Those still doubting the reality or severity of the crisis are either not looking, or pretending not to see.

COP26 banner - ostrich looking at a man with head in sand

Whose head is above the sand when it comes to the climate crisis?

Yet, you’d be forgiven for not really noticing COP26. The official outcomes and implications for our daily lives appear rather small, compared to the scale of the challenge to keep global heating within 1.5°C which the world leaders have collectively committed us to. There are some reasons to celebrate the official event, even though President Alok Sharma’s apologised for the final result, so do read more on Positive News.

COP26 - agreement drafts comparison

COP26 agreement draft versions comparison – click on the image to see the differences

Let’s look at the personal impact of COP26 then. I attended COP21 in Paris in 2015, which left me with similarly mixed emotions. On one hand, I was very disappointed (if not too surprised) with the underwhelming outcome since the agreement text was getting weaker as the conference progressed. Despite the science being abundantly clear on the urgency of the climate crisis, country leaders (many under the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists) still seemed to lack the shared vision for a just transition that is needed to lead us out of it. Voices of those who are already facing the impacts were getting drowned out or diluted by misleading terms such as ‘net zero’. At the end of the day though, it was just one conference – the gap between words and actions can still be closed if we keep the pressure up on politicians and businesses to deliver.

COP26 - a couple of York protestors in Glasgow

A couple of York protestors demanding global justice at the Glasgow march in a precious moment of sunshine

On the other hand, the people in the streets of Glasgow and at People’s Climate Summit inspired much more positive thoughts. It felt energising to be amongst over 100,000 people from around the world, of all walks of life (despite the less than kind Glasgow weather) with many more gathering all round the globe to demand climate justice. NGO representatives who attended the negotiations told us that the direct actions during COP26, such as the Scientist Rebellion’s, and the strength of the march, did have an impact at the negotiating tables. It certainly provided moral support for smaller nations whose fate depends on our success or failure in keeping within the 1.5°C limit.

What else can we do then, as individuals and communities? As Greta Thunberg says: “To change everything, we need everyone” and “instead of looking for hope – start creating it.” If your house is on fire, surely you’d do all you can to put it out, rather than pour petrol on it or watch others do so?! For example, I’m rather tired of the argument that there is little point in the UK or individuals doing anything much when China’s climate impact is so huge. Most conveniently forget that a lot of China’s emissions are lurking in our houses in the form of electronics and other stuff – around 33% of the country’s carbon footprint is in its exports. If the City of London were a country, it would be the ninth largest CO2 emitter so there’s plenty that the UK can and needs to do, such as engage in climate reparations, while inspiring others to follow our lead.

COP26 - think for yourself act for everyone banner

“Think for yourself, act for everyone”

Interestingly, it was people from Kenya and other impacted communities who seemed to be most optimistic about the future. They were convinced that we can win on climate justice and make the world a better place for everyone. How could I indulge in my innate pessimism when faced with that?

So what next? Here I’d like to share some tips to help put the “fire” out in our home:

Post written by Sustainability Officer Ivana Jakubkova who can be contacted via

13 December 2021 | Categories: One Planet Living, Opinion Piece | Tags: climate, climate action, COP26, fossil fuels, global heating, one planet living, treaty