COP26 #2

The start of something big?

William P Ball


November 1, 2021

This afternoon I arrived in the City of Glasgow to attend COP26 as an official Observer on behalf of the University of Aberdeen.

At the same time, global heads of state have also converged on the city for two days which kick off the international negotiations. Today these leaders are giving opening statements. Some have shared their actions to date to reduce climate change, others have outlined their ambitions for these talks and some have urged that the wealthiest nations among them to do more.

Alongside these world leaders and their delegations, corporate interests are also well represented as partners (i.e. sponsors). They are all eager to be seen as taking action or making a difference. As I have arrived in the city from my home in Aberdeen I am struck by the people who do not have the opportunity to attend.

Leaders from around the world are here but the extent of their influence is hugely variable. Countries from the global south and those with developing economies will hold little sway in the coming negotiations. These places, which have contributed the least to causing climate change & who will suffer the most, are marginalised in these discussions.

Organisational failings in the run up to the conference have exacerbated this issue too. Problems and delays with the accreditation and visa processes, lack of access to vaccinations, changing travel restrictions as well as expensive and scarce accommodation options have all contributed to this problem.

My first impression of this conference is that it is highly exclusionary. I worry that important and constructive discussions, which will happen in this city during these weeks and beyond, will be overshadowed by a lack of ambition and commitment to action at the international level. I hope that I am proved wrong.

In the coming days I will be posting another blog in this series, exploring the potentially devastating impact climate change will have health inequalities.