COP26: First Impressions

The road to Cop26 has been long and hard for some and not just metaphorically.

Pilgrims from Sweden and Germany started walking in August arriving in North Shields by ferry three weeks ago.

I met them and joined them for the last few rain soaked miles into Glasgow on Friday 29 October arriving for a memorable service of welcome and blessing in Glasgow Cathedral.

Walking with them for just a few days was a remarkable experience both to witness their commitment and to see how warmly they were greeted along the way.

In schools and churches and in towns and country children and adults responded with kindness and generosity and with a genuine sense of awe at their undertaking. It was the best kind of human endeavour.

Media coverage of their arrival in Glasgow was positive and the short final walk on Saturday from Glasgow Green to George Square well reported.

On the whole reporting of other walks, marches and protests has also been positive.

Greta Thunberg was seen with a group of admiring young people in a park in Govan, Greenpeace faced down a reluctant Clyde Port Authority by sailing up the Clyde uninvited and a picturesque small shoal of mermaids washed up outside the Scottish Events Centre, where the Cop is being held, to publicise Marine Rebellion.

Inside it’s a different story.

Visiting the ‘blue zone’ at the Cop yesterday where delegates and diplomats gather was like going into a huge corporate trade fair with governments from around the world vying with each other to present themselves and their carbon cutting credentials in the best possible light.

There is a lot of commercial sponsorship and a great deal of media and communications expertise on display. It’s all very shiny and bright but it does not feel good.

There is not the same sense of conviction or clarity as among the protesters or pilgrims outside.

I know there are great number of very good people doing their best on the government delegations (we have met some of them in recent months) but there is always a sense that most governments cannot commit to the changes that are needed and always have one foot on the brake, thinking of business interests, political popularity at home or national advantage.

The media reporting also carries a sense of scepticism: are governments and political leaders really committed to change, are their commitments credible and will they be put into effect?

It’s early days and the pattern of negotiations is not yet clear. But for now the protesters and the pilgrims have my vote.

2 comments on “COP26: First Impressions”

  1. Janet Jardine Reply

    Adrian, thank you for your report.
    Meantime we will try to help our representatives in local and national governments listen, plan and act to combat climate change.

  2. Mary Sweetland Reply

    And today is all about ESG investment. I spent the morning with Faith Invest. The amount of divestment from oil and gas in the equity markets is enormous at the moment. Great that all our partner churches are now committed to divestment!

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