Thoughts after COP26

Thursday 9th of December 2021
Fruit tree with fruit

I have been having various thoughts since the end of COP26. To be honest, most of these are not directly connected with what was happening at this climate conference. I say that because much of what took place in terms of negotiations and announcements reflected arenas to which I don’t have direct access. The dynamics operating may well reflect interpersonal relationships more than might be expected, but they are not something that I can claim to be able to influence.

Before the conference, I wrote about aiming to develop a focus on what individuals and small groups can do in the years running up to the Paris Olympics to make changes which will address some of the issues around climate change. I’ll come back to that in a moment. Before that I want to say a little about the Earthshot Prize. I wrote about this when I heard it first being announced in November 2020. I was initially excited by what I heard, but I confess that I was slightly disappointed when I found out how prizes were being awarded. Over recent weeks, I have watched the TV coverage around the allocation of the prizes. I can’t help feeling that by having a small number of prizes and large sums of money involved, there was an inevitable movement towards certain types of projects.

What I think COP26 and the Earthshot Prize have confirmed for me is that we need far more grassroots projects and activities, which cost little or nothing to implement, but which (and maybe for that very reason) capture and harness people’s imagination. There are so many “little” things (which turn out not to be little, especially when many people are involved) which could be done and certain of those will appeal to some individuals but not to others. However, there’s so much that could be done that it could be overwhelming. I’ve therefore been trying over the last few weeks to think of some headings which could be used as “pegs” to hang things on.

What I’ve come up with are Relationship with Land (including ways we each use land directly or indirectly); Energy Generation and Use; Our Roles as Consumers. These obviously have dimensions which apply at international and national levels, but I am primarily thinking of the personal and local aspects in what I am setting out.

Out of these have come four questions. They are simple questions to ask but not necessarily to answer. However, they are questions which anyone can challenge themselves with:
What do I/we buy?
What do I/we eat?
How do I/we travel?
Where do I/we go on holiday?

I suppose these are my equivalents of the “coal, cars, cash and trees” slogan used at COP26. Different people will respond in different ways. What ties all the questions and what I would hope could tie responses together is the unvoiced question “and how could I change my answer to this question to reduce my negative impact and increase my positive impact on our environment?” I may in the time ahead go into detail about some of my thoughts around possible responses, but I will leave it there for now.