COP26 Notes: Day 1 – Arriving to Glasgow, Meeting Michael Bloomberg, and Arriving at COP26

It’s Day 1 at COP26, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be here. Before I begin recapping my day, let me take a step back and introduce myself. My name is Noa Dalzell, I’m a 23-year-old, Boston-based climate advocate, and I’m here at the United Nations international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. This is my second time at a COP – I was at the last one as well, COP25 in Madrid, which was one of the biggest turning points in my professional life. I left Madrid knowing with all certainty that I would devote my life to combating the climate crisis in an equitable way. This time around, I’m here for the duration of the conference, with a packed agenda and plenty of ambition. Next week, I’ll be speaking about the decarbonization of the aviation sector, and how current plans fall short. I’m here representing two organizations – Climate XChange, where I am the Director of the State Climate Policy Network, and Second Nature, where I am a Climate Policy Associate. In addition, I am incredibly interested in transitioning away from factory farming and toward plant-based agriculture – did you know that animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors to global climate change?

Anyways – I landed in Glasgow, Scotland this morning at 8am after flying a red eye from NYC. It was my first time flying internationally since the pandemic began, and it was an underwhelming experience; I actually was never asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test, even though I was prepared to show both of those, expecting the COVID-19 screening to be pretty rigid. Almost everyone on my flight was headed to COP26, which was exciting and made the usual small talk far more riveting. I met a New York University economist studying agricultural emissions and land use, a woman from Israel working on climate solutions in the Middle East, and an NGO leader leading the Beyond Coal campaign, among others.

After sitting in slow-moving traffic from the airport to the city, I rushed to a hotel downtown to pick up take-home COVID tests that all delegates have to administer daily in order to enter the venue. Using the test is pretty straight-forward – you take a swab, swirl it around your nostrils, put it in a special liquid, and within a few minutes, you get your result, which you then have to log into the NIH website. I was initially worried the process would be difficult to follow, but it was pretty quick and I’m ultimately glad the venue is taking such thorough precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

After administering this test, I went to the Airbnb where I will be staying for the next two weeks, dropped my stuff off at the apartment, and rushed to the University of Glasgow. There, I officially started my COP26 journey with a Partners Brunch hosted by Michael Bloomberg, former NYC mayor and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies. I met a couple of really cool people at this brunch – one woman from Canada working to train students on energy policy, and several University of Glasgow individuals. I also got to connect with Mr. Bloomberg directly, and we spoke of the important role that higher education must play in combating the climate crisis. I also got to try some really yummy avocado toast and drink some fresh orange juice that revived me as the lack of sleep began to hit.

At 11am, Michael Bloomberg addressed the room, announcing that Bloomberg Philanthropy was committed to closing a quarter of the world’s nearly 2,500 coal plants — and cancelling all 500-plus proposed coal plants — by 2025. This announcement was met with a chorus of applause.   

After the brunch, I did some work in the lobby of the University, and after my phone regained some battery, I walked to the conference site itself to get my badge. There was a massive line to get into the venue, which I expected. When I finally got in, I breathed a sigh of relief. Running on zero hours of sleep, at this point, I was just grateful to be functioning. I spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the different country pavilions and connecting with individuals who were also arriving at the conference for Day 1. I spent some time in the Ghana pavilion, where I learned of the country’s efforts to implement new renewable energy projects in line with the country’s goal of increasing renewable energy by 10% by 2030. Then, I caught a glimpse of Joe Biden coming out of a couple of closed-door World Leader Summit events.  

I’ll probably have longer blog posts this week, but I’ll keep it short for Day 1 since I’m pretty jet-lagged and exhausted from a long day of traveling and conference-going. But, more than anything, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here. I know what an enormous privilege it is to be able to be at this conference, and I intend to soak in every moment. 

Be sure to check back often for more posts from Noa over these next two weeks!  You can also follow Noa on Twitter (@noadalz) throughout COP26.