Posted: 16 November, 2021

New Perspectives on Climate Crisis at COP26

Blog, General, Interview, News, Senior School, Sixth Form, STEM

Year 12 student Ananya was invited to attend COP26 in Glasgow following her time volunteering at the Cambridge Centre for Climate Repair. She reports on her experience.

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend COP26 in Glasgow, visiting the GreenZone on Sunday 7th and Monday 8th November . As a geography student and an advocate of sustainability and climate awareness, COP was an enlightening and eye-opening experience for me.

I felt that this year COP26 was a particularly momentous event. In the eyes of many, the most crucial time to take significant steps towards solving the global climate crisis. In David Attenborough’s words, “We need to rewrite our story to turn this tragedy into a triumph”.

At a personal level, seeing and hearing first hand, the collaboration of policy makers, corporations, academics, and indigenous communities helped me further understand the extent of the problems caused by climate change, to people all over the world. However unlike those who dispel COP as “blah, blah, blah”, I came away with a sense of tempered optimism, as you realise there are potential solutions (both in the short and longer term) which could be implemented through cooperation and efforts made by all parties involved, despite the obvious fact that they key goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5% seems an unlikely outcome.

The numerous exhibitions in COP26’s Green Zone were innovative and inspiring. They are proof of how we can exist in the modern day in a sustainable manner: that technology/man made creations and the environment can work in a symbiotic relationship to combat climate change effectively- to mitigate, adapt and repair.

The progress made and the commitments and promises by companies and smaller organisations gave me some hope. Several corporations have pledged to tackle climate change in their businesses, and are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve “net zero” by 2050: this creates a momentum as other business leaders will want to match them.

One of my favourite exhibitions was a VR experience, a demonstration on how we can use our advanced technology to help address the climate issue. This exhibition’s focus was on education, experience, and awareness. It gave you a first person perspective into the lives and plight of the people who live on the islands of the Philippines, which are slowing sinking as sea levels rise. You watch the classrooms fill with water, garbage floating in the water swirling around your feet, children wading through the murky liquid just to get to school.

It felt so real, as if you were witnessing first hand, how many are suffering from the climate crisis. It also emphasised that the effects of climate change aren’t possible problems of the future, but really happening right now. It created a sense of realism and urgency, by fully immersing yourself in the problem you can truly grasp how real and impactful climate change is already in ordinary people’s lives. It was shocking to say the least, and it really changed my perspective and understanding of the climate crisis.

I attended a multitude of talks on a range of climate-change based topics. One of the most interesting ones I found was ‘Unlocking Climate Solutions’. I was able to hear from members of indigenous communities, their view on climate change and the damage we do to the earth. The application of indigenous values (how they exist in harmony with nature), and how these could be applied to our lives in the western world, showed me how much we have to learn from other countries and cultures. In particular I believe, the collaboration with indigenous communities is something that is not widely discussed, and this talk made me realise how many components of the climate crisis and their potential solutions the wider population are not aware of.

Overall I came away from COP26, cautiously optimistic. I realise that we will not achieve net zero by 2050, that the commitment on a coal agreement was changed to “phasing down”, and that developing countries will only receive the $100bn in aid that was promised in 2020, by 2025. However I feel some progress was made – the COP pledges should limit global warming to 1.9 degrees, and $130 trillion has been pledged to green technology. I do believe more could’ve been done, but what I do believe COP has done is focus the minds of everybody- global warming must be addressed now.

A huge thanks to Antoinette Nestor (a One Step Greener COP26 ambassador), and other members of the Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge for making this possible.

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