Lessons from COP26

COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held in lasgow in November last year. Cheryl Hadland, founder, Tops Day Nurseries shares her thoughts on the landmark event.

The parties are the signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994 which has 197 parties (196 countries plus the EU).

Activities at a COP take place in two zones, the blue zone is for people registered with the UN. Delegates from around the world meet for both formal negotiations and informal consultations with other delegations, UN agencies and non-profit organisation.

The Green zone is delivered by the host country (called the Presidency) and was this year at the Glasgow Science Centre, a building that looks a bit like an armadillo. 

In this article I reflect on what I saw and listened to, but from a nursery sector perspective, as follows:

‘Films as agents for change’ was a presentation in the full-dome Planetarium, showing a film called Climate Crimes followed by a live discussion with ‘communication experts’.  The 10 year old Planetarium film 360 degrees that had already been presented at the Paris COP was created by Adrian Lahoud & Michaela French, and included amazing and beautiful images of the world from space, and modelling of what could be expected to happen when the temperatures increased, designed to inspire change.  Speakers included 2 YMCA young people, one from Hawaii and one from Peru, telling their personal stories on the basis that this is a very good way to engage with people, empathy being far more likely to inspire change than fear.  I’m not sure that those in the day nursery sector would be able to see this film in a planetarium, but I think that engaging with colleagues, children and parents stories on their experiences, thoughts, concerns and hopes regarding climate change is something to incorporate if wanting to make changes in our settings.

‘We make our future’ was another Planetarium film, this time showing a double quick history of the worlds climate since its creation by the sun.  The film is a collaboration between the University of the West of England and Explorer Dome, funded by the initiative digital engineering, technology & Innovation. The group are now going to take the film around schools and colleges in the South West of the country using their portable, inflatable planetarium, to inspire young people to make the right decisions for the planet as well as themselves.  It may be that nurseries and school age children could arrange a showing of this film as a great educational experience, offering cultural capital to all.  Collaborating with local authorities on arranging a showing might enable a more cost effective way to do this.

Novel Electrification through advanced sustainable technologies

This presentation was mind blowing scientific innovation offered from 5 Professors/PhDs.  Some were involved in creating some astonishing new trucks that will be zero emissions and as cost effective and timely as current trucks.  They combine electric power with hydrogen to extend the range massively. 

Other academics discussed some of the significant down sides of electric vehicles, such as their batteries, and magnets in the engines, but also showed that solutions had been created already, and are on the way.  For example the cobalt and rare metals used in the magnets (causes pollution of waterways including radio activity and chemicals) could be avoided. Batteries and electric powertrains already being used could be recycled relatively easily using robots.   

People make transport: communities enabling greener travel

High powered politicians including the Minister for Transport UK Bernadette Kelly and the Scottish minister for active travel and several local Glasgow politicians were on the podium, having a big push towards public transport.  They talked about greening up routes with planting and benches and using more of the roads for bikes and pedestrians. 

An eco-friendly approach to travel can be easily discussed amongst staff and families at nursery settings. There are many affordable ways to introduce greener methods of transport, it’s just about getting the information out there and supporting staff who want to have a greater focus on it.

Greener food

On another stand a disc was displayed saying “Milk and dairy foods – better for the planet – eating a balanced nutritious diet in line with the Eatwell Guide, the UKs dietary guidelines, can have a positive impact on both our health and the planet.  If the UK ate in line with the Eatwell Guide research shows it could lead to -34% land use. 

I forwarded the Eatwell Guide to our head chef and operations team, just in case they hadn’t already got it.

Unilever made some impressive commitments to be a force for good in food, halving food waste, and increasing plant based meat and dairy, for example.

Another stand asked visitors to write a promise for improving their carbon footprint, choosing to ramp up recycling, protect nature, fight food waste or reduce carbon emissions with colour coded cards which you then pegged up on  board, which might be a good way to adapt to engage staff and parents.

An overview

So, what was the result of COP26 other than a signed document that is now available for all to read?  Paraphrasing Friends of the Earth’s and Cool Earth’s summaries:

  • Some countries have recognised the need to end coal, oil and gas. Others are committed to stop financing fossil fuels overseas.  A commitment to end deforestation by 2030 came up too – is that possible?
  • The climate movement is bigger and broader than ever before
  • The UK government is under real pressure to ditch new coal, oil and gas projects.
  • The unfairness of the climate crisis has been in the spotlight. Nowhere near enough has been done to support poorer countries, and indigenous peoples, that have done the least to cause global heating
  • Although the media billed COP26 as the last chance to save the planet, that was never the case. It was an opportunity for progress. But progress doesn’t only happen at these UN summits – the climate crisis was never going to be fixed in 2 weeks, it is ongoing for everyone.

Did you know that every year, oil and gas companies spend over £150m lobbying politicians to block new legislation on climate action. This means we have a lot of work to do to fight for the right thing to do, i.e. reduce oil and gas use.

Let’s not forget that today’s children are the ones who are going to suffer most from climate change, and let’s make all the changes that we can to reduce our own carbon footprints at work and at home.

Date published: January 25, 2022