Where does the delay to COP26 leave us?

By Dr Kat Jones, Coalition Manager, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland

Published:03 May 2020

Dr Kat Jones
Dr Kat Jones

The announcement of a delay to COP26 may not have given us a concrete date to work towards, but at least it took part of the uncertainty away. A delay was both necessary and expected; the world’s governments have a pandemic on their hands and this needs immediate effort.

The impacts of Covid-19 are also being felt intensely across civil society in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Many of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) member organisations are working to support vital services and the vulnerable through the crisis.

Grass-root and community groups who we have been working with on planning for COP in Glasgow are now plunged into community resilience projects attending to those in immediate need.

And many staff of our member organisations are putting huge amounts of time into volunteering in their own communities, not to mention the financial impacts which are leading to staff being furloughed across the sector.

The imminent challenges and the delay to COP pose questions about how we should approach our work towards COP.

What was the plan?

For us at SCCS, we had set out our priorities for the months running up to November. These included using COP as a lever to increase climate action in Scotland at all levels, engaging and involving more people in the issues, and working with others to make an impact on UK and global climate action.

We also sought to use COP as an opportunity to come together with others to build a stronger, broader and more effective climate movement in Scotland.

In addition to these priorities, we had been preparing to welcome many thousands from the global climate movement. By helping to source accommodation and by creating a base for civil society during COP, we aimed to empower civil society to ensure that it could be an effective and powerful force at COP.

So where does a delay to COP leave us?

Firstly: Time to think, plan and re-centre

Covid-19 is causing enormous shockwaves across the world and is affecting individuals and organisations we work with. We need to ensure that we take the time to assimilate what is happening, what this means and how best we can support our colleagues. The extra time gives us the opportunity to foster genuine collaborations and involve more of civil society.

The timescale of COPs, usually announced little more than a year ahead, gives little time for civil society movements in host countries to prepare. The exception was the Paris COP which was announced in April 2013 with official designation at the Warsaw COP in November 2013, a full two years before the conference.

Secondly: Listening to the voices from the global movement

With technologies such as Zoomand other collaborative tools, now seems to be a great opportunity to reach out beyond Scotland to our colleagues and partners in global civil society.

SCCS has had a clear aim in all its work - to bring forward the voices of the global south and those most affected by the climate crisis. This is vitally important at the Glasgow COP, the fourth in a row in the global north.

We now have a chance to seek out those we need to work with to ensure we create the right opportunities and platforms for civil society’s voice to be heard and to find the ways to bring those voices from the countries most affected by climate change to Glasgow.

Thirdly: Those still able to work on climate need to support the movement

Cyclone Idai
Financial support of $100bn per year from rich countries to vulnerable countries is due ‘by 2020’ not ‘by COP26’ under the Paris Agreement. Image: Cyclone Idai, Miros, Adobe Stock.

While our member organisations and allies across the world are stepping up to deal with the pandemic, and capacity of civil society is hit hard by furloughing, the need for us to take action on the climate crisis remains as urgent as ever.

This pandemic brings into even sharper focus that global crises need global answers. We need collaboration and cooperation between governments to save lives, whether covid or climate crisis, with action based on what the science demands.

We need to find out where the needs for support are and how we can keep up the huge momentum created in the months since Glasgow was first announced as host for COP26.

To start with we are repurposing the climatefringe.org website, which was due to launch as an events platform for the run-up to the COP last month. The site will become a hub for online organising, a place to go to find out about online events, training, workshops; it will host webinars and other activity from the movement at large. Watch this space….

Fourthly: What can be learnt from the covid-19 crisis

Windfarm in the US
A recent poll conducted by Ipsos Mori found that the majority of Britons want the environment prioritised in the economic recovery. Image: Windfarm by Raw Film, UnSplash.

In this crisis we are seeing a remarkable outpouring of solidarity with the vulnerable and an increase in volunteering and generosity to strangers. We are seeing more clearly the difference between want and need and experiencing what it is like to live precariously.

With the cracks in our business-as-usual systems becoming wider, the importance of community resilience, localism, well-resourced institutions and global cooperation is obvious.

This could forever change the way global issues are framed and how policies are made. We need to identify how to mend systemic failures for good, learn from and bring on board the groups mobilising to deal with the pandemic and understand how to build back up after crises to ensure people, communities and our planet thrive.

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