‘I was energised by what I saw in Glasgow’ says COP26 delegate
After over a week in Glasgow I returned home to Cambridge on the last day of negotiations, feeling unsure of what the outcome of COP26 would be, writes Dr Antoinette Nestor, associate fellow at the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) and post-doctoral research associate in law at Lucy Cavendish College.
Now that COP26 is finished, the new buzzword we hear is the Glasgow Climate Pact. This is the agreement reached after two weeks of negotiations, where world leaders and representatives decided how to proceed in relation to the goals agreed in 2015 under the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
The importance of this new Climate Pact is that for the very first time it includes the reduction of coal as well as financial help for developed countries to help with adaptation measures needed due to the effects of climate change.
Not everyone is happy: some are disappointed that not enough was done in relation to climate action, or that coal should have been be “phased out” rather than “phased down”, or that loss and damage provisions should have been part of the wording of the agreement. However, for the most part, it is a very good starting point.
The two weeks also saw other remarkable agreements such as reducing methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 (methane is a major contributor to greenhouse gases), and more than 100 countries agreed to stop deforestation by 2030.
As a member of civil society, I was encouraged to see plenty of activism taking place outside the confinements of the Blue and Green Zones. I received leaflets for fringe events and protests – one of them the biggest one Glasgow has ever seen – and saw people demonstrating outside the security area calling for urgent action on climate issues.
From the inside, the Blue Zone with its triple check security measures had an air of confidence, yet it was a world of its own – a microcosm not just composed of government representatives but also researchers, civil society and academics working tirelessly to ensure an agreement took place. And, inside the Green Zone, a myriad of people and events for all ages took place with displays of new technologies, dance, films, talks and hands-on activities.
Professionally, I was able to attend and present sessions on the Blue Zone, the Green Zone, the University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. I was somehow shy to see myself in the big billboards of the Green Zone, telling the world what I was doing as a COP26 One Step Greener Ambassador to help the world. I did not rest for over nine days yet I felt energised with what was happening around me every single day.
I was privileged enough to understand that if we are going to make the required changes to help our world, it is us – us as individuals and as part of the community and the world at large – who are the ones that are going to be in the driving seat, ensuring our elected officials take note of what we want, ensuring the changes required to combat climate change and improve our communities take place. The Glasgow Climate Pact is clear. We must do everything we can so we do not go over 1.5 degrees Celsius.
As I chatted to my boys after the first day back telling them stories about my experiences of Glasgow, I could not help but to infuse them with a note of positivism aimed at stopping their fears from multiplying – they understand what rising sea levels mean, what global warming is, what a climate refugee may experience. I want them to understand that together we can and we will make a difference.
So, what does it all mean for our local communities? It means we have to keep check of what is happening when it comes to local, regional and national responses to climate change, mitigation and adaptation plans. We have to do as much as we can, in a collaborative way, to combat climate change and repair planet Earth.
We need input from all sectors of society. We need to make changes as individuals but also as a society. We need to make changes in our places of work, within our universities, our schools, our communities and our homes. We need to work together to protect our world today, tomorrow and for the generations to come.
In my previous writing, I said: “I was privileged enough to have been part of an historical moment in time. A time where entire nations joined in and were able to create and offer solutions on how we can heal planet Earth, ensuring future generations can also call our planet their home.”
I am glad I was not wrong.