It’s arrived! The 26th UN climate conference, known as COP26 has started in Glasgow. It heralds two weeks of presentations, discussions, negotiations and political diplomacy, as representatives from countries around the world meet together to try and agree a unified course of action to address the climate crisis.
It’s perhaps difficult to get excited about a conference which may seem rather distant and irrelevant to what’s going on in our everyday lives here in the Harrogate District, but the outcome, regardless of what that may be, will impact on all our lives one way or another.
Whilst there will be a lot happening, both on the main stage and in the more private, closed-door meetings, it is all aimed at galvanising support for an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, within the next 30 years, to prevent global warming reaching 1.5 degrees above average. Even this 30-year timeframe is rather too generous, given that recent reports suggest that we may have less than ten years before we reach the 1.5 degrees of warming.
With the scale of environmental disasters that have been seen around the world, over the last few years, it would seem only obvious that countries would agree to the actions needed to reduce emissions, but unfortunately it seems that may not be the case. The clear and present danger posed by climate change has not yet been sufficient for climate action to take precedence over other considerations, particular when it comes to money. There are still many powerful and wealthy industries, who rely on the economic benefits of burning fossils fuels, arguing for far more moderate climate action or in fact no action at all. So, our fate appears to still to lie in the hands of those who are at the root cause of climate change in the first place, and it now appears they have done everything possible to deny or hide their role in it.
It’s easy to feel helpless and despondent when we seem to have little or no control over the outcome of this conference but in reality, as consumers, we have total control of our future, if we only put our minds to it. We don’t need to glue ourselves to the M25, blockade oil terminals or even wave placards outside parliament, we simply need to exercise our buying power more selectively and choose to purchase products and services which help to reduce carbon emissions, rather than those that contribute to them.
From the comfort of our own homes, we can choose to switch to a green energy tariff, buy an electric car, fly less, eat local, buy less and take many more simple, low-carbon acts of defiance, against the powerful lobby of the oil, gas and coal industries. There has perhaps never been a better time to take a careful look at our buying power, with a surge in the availability of green products and services, offering viable alternatives for most of our needs. Careful because things are not always what they seem and those clever marketing campaigns, for the less-than-green products pretending to be green, are aimed at the intrepid but unwary eco-shopper. Even the worst of those cunning fossil fuel companies are ramping up their marketing efforts to hide their true intent behind a façade of green activity, better known as greenwashing. The old adage holds true, ‘if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is’.
The outcome of COP26 is important but not final. If agreement is reached to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the timeframe required, it will make it much easier for everyone to implement the changes needed in the way we live our lives. If there is failure to reach an amicable agreement or in fact the agreed actions fail to be implemented, the onus falls more on the individual to take positive action and navigate through a more challenging landscape to make the right decisions.
Let’s hope our political leaders, regardless of country, will see the need for urgent climate action and have the courage and commitment to find the economic and technological solutions, which will allow an end to our financial reliance on fossil fuel industries.