We’re determined to make a difference after COP26

On 6th December 2021 we held a virtual She is Sustainable / She is Still Sustainable to talk about ‘where next after COP26?’

There have been a plethora of events and discussions leading up to, during and after COP26 – great to see the agenda being discussed and debated. We wanted to put on something slightly different, bringing together four women who were at COP26 to share their experiences and see where it went.

Firstly, a massive thanks to our four speakers:

Everything that She is (Still) Sustainable does is possible because of the time and effort of volunteers to arrange and deliver – and this includes our generous speakers.

For those who missed the session – here is a super-quick gallop through.

Determination is what we need

One of the common questions after COP has been ‘how optimistic are you now feeling?’.  Whilst optimism is important, we need to harness the collective determination to do this.

There is an opportunity to channel the positive energy on the agenda and bring the emotion – including the anger when needed – and have difficult conversations.

There is a climate hero in all of us!

And yes, we’re still optimistic

COP26 may not have offered all the solutions that we need nor had balanced representation (particularly from the Global South), but it was a step in the right direction.  Relatively (maybe not absolutely) we have made significant progress.  Here in the UK it was the most mainstream COP to date (maybe not so much around the world, highlighting the importance of where each COP is hosted), meaning more people who had never heard of a COP before are aware of what was happening and the urgency of the task in hand. 

There are lots of materials and discussions produced for and inspired by COP26 readily available and full of facts, inspiration, stories and ideas. Suggestions included the TED Countdown global livestream to give some food for thought on a credible and realistic pathway to a net-zero future, and this Radio 4 programme ‘Qasa’a Farm‘ about adaptation to flooding and sea level rise in Bangladesh to shine a light on the climatic changes we are now seeing. And there are lots of climate content creators on social media using TikTok and Instagram to reach new audiences (e.g. @tolmeia, @climateadam, @hilathekilla, @allwencansave, @ri_science).

Importantly young people, as the generation most burdened with the impacts of the climate crisis, had a voice at COP26 (Recommendations: watch YouTube Originals film Dear Earth, and  Clover Hogan on stage at COP26 with the High Level Champions) – we need to make sure they are brought into these discussions and decisions!.

“There is no hope in another ten years of tokenism”

Clover Hogan, November 2021

Worryingly, 20% of people are defeatists and 11% are fatalists about our ability to reduce climate change – 20% of people under 35 believe it is too late to fix climate change (and 77% of people feel it is very/fairly important to them) – see The Solutions Survey from Futerra for more.

COP was never going to be the solution or the end point – it is the floor, the base, the minimum on which businesses, governments, civil society and individuals can build.  And the signal it sends is positive – the language of the Glasgow Climate Pact was stronger than previous agreements (which is a big deal), climate justice and a just transition were included for the first time as was the mention of a specific fossil fuel (coal).  The signal from COP is strong and ambitious – it is for the other players to build on this.

“We keep going DESPITE and BECAUSE things look dire….It’s not about you, it’s about the change you’re trying to make.”

Solitaire Townsend, 2021

We know there are some bits missing

COP26 has been criticised for lack of representation from the Global South and vulnerable and marginalised communities and those most affected by climate change, causing a power imbalance and some questions over the legitimacy of agreements. More is needed around the Global North Vs the Global South, and especially fair and equal representation and whilst the conversation about Loss and Damage in the bigger context of global fairness has started, we need to see an ongoing political commitment alongside courageous action.

but conversations are happening.

Things are changing

Things are shifting, for example green finance is simply becoming ‘finance’, investors are demanding more climate related disclosures (such as TCFD and TNFD), and we are driving up environmental performance of infrastructure projects (for example the recently published ICMS (3) for life cycle costs and carbon emissions associated with construction projects and constructed assets). 

And technology is having an impact.  We know that we can live through incredible tech and social changes (look what the internet has done in a lifetime).  But only if we think it is possible.

And yes, this is personal

Whilst we may not be around to see the impact of our efforts, or feel the wrath of our inaction, that shouldn’t stop us. 

It also doesn’t mean it’s not personal – it absolutely is.  For our children, our legacy, our favourite places.  It stirs emotions and feelings, as it should, and we need to harness these to keep driving forward.  To find our energy, get our voices heard, connect with each other and share the mission.