Everything is set up for the COP26 and all eyes are on the largest city of Scotland, Glasgow.
The situation is clear: the clock is ticking and the 12.6 % renewable energy used worldwide is still not sufficient for a global energy transition to Net Zero.
With all due respect for Greek mythology, how long will the world stand its ground against the world leaders’ ignorance and inability to act? There have been made many demands at COP26 for keeping the 1.5 °C target and keeping earth’s resilience alive…
The science is already settled (e.g., the latest IPCC report https://www.ipcc.ch/reports/), and the politicians are urged to deliver, now. Here, by means of a cartoon in a hallway at the COP26 area.
…where many protest activities have been installed and performed.
Protest in the so-called ‘Action Zone’ demanding more Climate Action …with the Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean at its front and the puppet Amal on ‘Gender day’.
Glasgow, as the host city, and part of the Covenant of mayors (https://www.covenantofmayors.eu/about/covenant-community/signatories/overview.html?scity_id=12432), promises highly ambitious climate actions for this decade.
However, there was a clear opinion at previous COP and negotiation events; a strict Call for more Climate Action was ordered, especially from the Youth.
‘We are not doing enough and quickly enough – Code Red for parliaments’. A statement found in the Nordic Pavilion.
Arriving in Glasgow and getting ready for the second week of the COP26, it all started with protests throughout the inner city…
About a hundred thousand people filled miles of Glasgow’s streets.
The weather was challenging in every way:
When you are a citizen of Glasgow, you know that a coat outcompetes any umbrella. The ignorance of such wisdom is not a good advisor. Wind power drives the protests.
A flying cow, with an educating purpose (https://climatehealers.org/cop26/), is about to fly away once and for all.
‘Over the rainbow…’ the Scottish weather held its promises and was as diverse as Glasgow’s internationality.
A bagpipe player was marching together with hundreds of thousands in one of the biggest Climate Action protests in the history of Glasgow. It was not just a symbol of Climate Action, it was also a symbol of Scotland’s longing for independence from the UK.
Many small protest marches appeared within the huge crowd acting on Climate Justice.
From passionate and energetic local youth…
…to those communicating local conflicts from far away. E.g., a mining conflict in El Estor, in the Mayan Q’eqchi territory, Guatemala… (https://www.plazapublica.com.gt/content/el-conflicto-minero-en-el-estor-opaca-la-peticion-qeqchi-que-se-les-reconozcan-sus-tierras)
…and engaged seniors standing up for gender justice.
Even the youngest were marching on this parade…
Dancers performed against the “toxic fashion industry” and its vast use of toxic plastic and chemicals… (https://www.xrfashionaction.com/)
…and world leaders of countries with substantial contributions to GHG by deforestation and fossil fuel exploitation are symbolically shackled and pilloried.
Some of these countries (like Australia and the US) were even awarded the “Fossil of the day” (https://climatenetwork.org/cop26/fossil-of-the-day-at-cop26/).
‘Climate Justice’ was one of the most prominent symbols of hope that was called for during the protests.
To be fair, the hospitality in Glasgow was far beyond just good. Even when the UK government’s pandemic advice of wearing a mask indoors was kept as a loose guideline – a deja vu of words from past Climate Pact agreements.
The setting of COP26 alongside the Clyde Canal resembled remnants of a formerly very industrialised shipping city.
Just in front of the “Armadillo” building, visitors were waiting for a “Net Zero” bus that in the end might arrive too late…
Whereas an ambulance arrived right on time…
…to carry away some Climate Crisis victims.
Astonishingly, the schedule of Glasgow’s (cute) subway was not extended, and trains have not been running after 11 pm. Maybe even better to keep heads clear and guarantee a refreshing start into heated negotiations the next morning.
It is known that queuing is some kind of national sport for the British, and they do it quite professionally. Consequently, COP attendees were soothed with different candies while they waited. Frustratingly, they were not as sustainable and free of conflict resources (like palm oil) as a Pro-Climate conference should pledge.
While negotiations were taking place, observers who could not manage to grab a spot were able to visit side events or pavilions.
Surprisingly, nuclear power has been represented in its own pavilion, “Nuclear for Climate”. Atomic Energy is becoming a big thing in the UK, backed by its organisers, as it undergoes a ‘mini renaissance’.
Moreover, it seemed the COP youth delegates were putting the average age at a much lower level this year…
Dignitaries made appearances at various pavilions. For instance, the former President of Ireland was attending the Brazilian Pavilion to promote her newly translated book ‘Climate justice’ (Justiça climática).
Representatives of Tuvalu were not only passionate in their speeches but also shared some strong words about the hazards of Climate Change.
Due to their ongoing coalition formation, few interventions were expressed from Germany who gave an overall weak performance.
However, Germany ‘impressed’ with their Real-Life Terrarium installation as their Pavilion.
Creative adolescents know how to improvise an interview with the Minister of Energy Transition, Agriculture, Environment, Nature and Digitization of the German State of Schleswig-Holstein
In the area towards the plenary and meeting rooms where negotiations happened, you could catch sight of the Eden Project at COP26 – https://www.edenproject.com/mission à Becoming an official Earthling is great!
Having a break the cafeteria did not only offer slightly overpriced non-plant-based food, but a place of Climate Action as well (https://www.thesalmonschool.com/).
One of the most intriguing parts of the COP has indeed been the plenary sessions in the biggest halls.
Maybe one of the best speakers at the COP – besides Bangladesh (“negotiating the non-negotiable”), Tuvalu, Panama (“Simply cannot square the circle”) and even the EU – has been the Kenyan delegate Keriako Tobiko…he was late and unprepared at the headline event “ministerial on adaptation action”, due to attending a stocktaking plenary. Nonetheless, he managed to talk passionately with the words “In Africa, it is an emergency we cry when it rains, it is an emergency we cry when it doesn’t. A perpetual state of emergency” and closing with the phrase “let’s put the money on the table”, urging the developed countries to deliver and to further underline that money should not be the problem, but it can create Climate Action.
The plenary sessions went on long, and on the very last official day, a people’s plenary had been held gathering constituencies, NGOs, INGOs, YOUNGO, and others, to claim their will in Climate Action.
Empty chairs were an exception during the People’s Plenary.
Instead, an enthusiastic youth was cheering loud and clear…
…with all eyes on the different speakers.
A RINGO (Research and Independent NGO) delegate explained how scientific-based facts dismantle the myth of inclusivity at COP26.
…and Indigenous Climate Actions happened all around in the People’s plenary with responding protest songs from the audience.
…even some representatives of our modest TUM’s delegation were raising their voices, demanding action on the already-delivered science-based facts.
While ending the people’s plenary with a protest march towards the entrance of the event area, the COP26 got closer and closer to the most striking and dramatic hours of the second Closing Plenary…
Desperate observers were holding on for hours, praying on free power sockets, before the allegedly ultimate Plenary began. The excitement was tangible.
The COP President* had to be capable of handling this tense atmosphere. Some of his important sentences:
(*disclaimer: Following expressions are just an amateurish impression of the real UK COP president Alok Sharma who managed to hold back emotions most of the time (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2021/nov/14/i-am-deeply-sorry-alok-sharma-fights-back-tears-as-watered-down-cop26-deal-agreed-video))
Is my mic working?
I see an intervention from China. So, China, you have the floor. (Whereas many interventions from many more countries had been experienced)
Haven’t we agreed on just two weeks?
Guys*, we can create history here! So, let’s get back to work! (*rather informal expression)
And in the final hour of the exceeded 2-weeks schedule, the COP President revealed some emotions after 3 days with 3 hours sleep and a last-minute proposal by India…
Eventually, an agreement on the Glasgow Climate Pact by all parties had been successful, and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, remarks COP26 as a bridge built by all parties (https://unfccc.int/news/cop26-reaches-consensus-on-key-actions-to-address-climate-change). But as the UK President of COP26 Alok Sharma pointed out the “weak pulse of the 1.5 °C”, the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres proclaimed “COP 27 starts now.“
The COPs…are watching YOU?
So how many COPs are needed then?
Apparently, not enough…
“Next COP – Climate Change Reduction. Please mind the gap”
There are rather diverse interpretations on the outcome of COP26. However, one consensus is the lack of financial commitment from developed countries as pledges to those who are still developing and are most vulnerable, especially regarding ‘Loss and Damage’. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/10/cop26-draft-calls-for-tougher-emissions-pledges-by-next-year)
At least one point is apparent: there is still much to accomplish to tackle the global climate crisis.
A constant hustle when leaving COP26 – After COP means before COP. While this silent protest “speaks the truth in love” and unfolds “true strengths lies in calmness”. The next conference in Egypt (COP27) is to decide how calm the people still want to remain.
Happily ever after, the COP experience was quite polarizing, colourful, educating, and entertaining. An overloading event that placed the term ‘FOMO’ into a new sphere of self-discipline.
Pictures and Text by Laurin Reim
– Laurin Reim, M.Sc. Sustainable Resource Management & M.Sc. Engineer Ecology