My hopes and aspirations as I attend COP26, by University of Cambridge’s Dr Antoinette Nestor
Among those attending the COP26 conference from Cambridge will be Dr M Antoinette Nestor, associate fellow at the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) and post-doctoral research associate in law at Lucy Cavendish College, who looks forward to it here.
Many of us have heard about COP26 or perhaps the buzzword has been “Glasgow” – or perhaps this is the first time you are reading about it. One way or another, it is something the whole nation and possibly the whole world would be talking about it come October 31.
One of my boys asked me recently “What is COP26 and are you going there mammy? Will you be doing something? Can we come with you?”
Well, those three questions very much encompass what I will write about.
COP stands for the Conference of the Parties, and this year is the 26th time that they all have met (COP26). “Parties” means countries that are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It brings government officials from all over the world under one roof to bring forward the goals set in 2015 under the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
But what about the people you may be wondering? Why all the fuss if not all those attending are government officials?
Well, although at the very heart it is an intergovernmental treaty process, not just government officials and representatives attend. A large number of civil society organisations, NGOs, media, businesses, city and local government also will be making their way to Glasgow in a few days. Some will stay for the whole duration (October 31-November 12) others may attend a few events, or may go to some side events held in different places around the city of Glasgow. And, it is not just people from the UK coming together but people from all over the world representing different interests will also be there. The idea is to co-ordinate their own actions on climate change, create alliances, learn from each other, and push governments to do more.
As you can see, there are two different groups of people attending, and because of this, organisers have divided them into those attending the “Blue Zone” (government officials and representatives) or the “Green Zone” (civil society, media, city and local government, etc.). While at one level it is important governments make agreements and hold each other into account, the voice of the people is also essential.
This means public participation is key for a successful outcome if we are going to combat climate change. As a member of the public, and fortunate enough to wear different hats in my everyday life, I will be attending Glasgow wearing an academic hat, a civil organisation hat and a One Step Greener Ambassador’s hat (on a virtual capacity). I will be part of a conference on climate law and governance held at the University of Glasgow; I will attend the Indigenous Peoples’ Pavilion on the Blue Zone (talking about why indigenous peoples around the world play a critical role in climate change); and I will host a session on the Green Zone for members of the public (on why need to talk beyond emissions reductions and the importance of talking about how we can repair our planet). I will also be reporting on some of the day events and working on social media for the days I am there.
While I am not sure if one hat is bigger than the other, my hopes and aspirations for COP26, as a member of the civil society, is to return home to Cambridge and explain to my boys why mammy was away for a few days. To explain to them why it was so important for me to attend COP26. Not just because I had to do my day-to-day job - but also because I am a citizen and a member of the community, 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.
Sadly, I had to tell my boy that I could not bring him along (he has school to attend to) but he could join me on the virtual Green Zone and perhaps even catch a glimpse of mammy as a One Step Green Ambassador. There will be plenty of events on the Green Zone available online, if you fancy a peep to look from afar.