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Will COP26 achieve anything?

Diane Hall


The Earth at night as seen from space.

COP26, the 2021 United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, is unfolding at the moment, with a focus on the carbon market and the financing of any mitigation in the name of the climate crisis as items on the agenda.

Greta Thunberg, the recognisable face of climate campaigns, is unconvinced that the conference will actually achieve anything other than more hot air being generated—by the people in the conference room. She said, ‘Nothing has changed from previous years really. The leaders will say 'we'll do this and we'll do this, and we will put our forces together and achieve this', and then they will do nothing. Maybe some symbolic things and creative accounting and things that don't really have a big impact. We can have as many COPs as we want, but nothing real will come out of it.’

Even our monarch agrees with Greta. In a private conversation that was overheard via a microphone, Queen Elizabeth ll said, ‘It's really irritating when they talk, but they don't do.’

There’s no doubt that combatting the damage to our climate is a humungous task. It’s really not something that can be achieved by one country alone. Is it even something that’s up to governments to solve?

Business owners have choices when it comes to the ‘greenness’ and ethics of their enterprise. We, as individuals, can make the choice to live our lives climate-consciously and reduce the impact we have on the planet.

We certainly have the motivation to do so…look no further than the news to see devastating floods, out of control bush fires, and melting ice caps.

But do we have the energy or commitment? After all, a lot of the products we consume and the practices we employ are for our convenience. We could take public transport to work, for example, but it’s easier, more convenient and often much quicker to drive to our workplaces. Lots of us use Bags For Life when we do our shopping, to reduce the amount of plastic in landfill, but how many of us then add soft drinks in plastic bottles to our trollies? It doesn’t just stop at the plastic packaging you see…there’s plastic in practically everything—from our furniture, shampoo and other beauty products, the detergents we use, and our clothes.

Chimney and smoke over blue sky

Chimney and smoke over blue sky

Knowledge is only half the battle. I’m a size 22. I know what foods I should eat, i.e. what’s healthy, what contains a little/lots of fat, carbs vs. protein, etc., but still I choose to put the exact opposite in my mouth. If I’m honest, a lot of the time, I don’t even think about the choices I make when it comes to food, and I suspect this forms the basis of our decisions that impact the environment.

The other issue with my weight is that I have stones to lose, not a few pounds, which sometimes seems an insurmountable challenge. Maybe this is also synonymous with people’s feelings about climate change. The damage we’ve inflicted is so severe already, can we still make a difference at this point in time?

I know that talking about my weight won’t shed the pounds—I’ve got to actively do something about it. So why do world leaders believe COP26 will have an impact on the climate crisis?

That said, if you spoke to any diet specialist or fitness expert, they would agree that doing something small is better than doing nothing at all. Making a few healthier food choices on a regular basis and walking for a few minutes more each week will still have a positive effect on my health. So, couldn’t that same analogy work with the environment? If we all did something small, if businesses and corporations made slight changes, this will surely be better than ignoring the issue and taking no action.

Again, knowledge isn’t really the issue here—we all know of things we could implement that will help the planet. I know Greta wants mammoth modification (she may be seen by many as simply a figure to ridicule, but at least she’s trying to drive change), but, if all the general public can commit to, at this moment, is small changes…well, that’s got to be a good thing, yes?

So, what could you do to help the future of our planet? What ‘small changes’ could you incorporate into your life? Tweet us at @intheknowemag

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