COP26 Notes: Second Nature at COP26 – Week One Recap

Three Second Nature team members – Tim Carter (President), Steve Muzzy (Climate Programs Senior Manager), and Noa Dalzell (Climate Policy Associate) – are attending COP26 in-person. To reiterate what we have already said, with less than ten years until 2030 (i.e. potentially the “point of no return”), this may be the most vital COP of our lifetime. Additionally, this COP is taking place during a global pandemic. Needless to say, COP26 is unlike any previous one.  

So what is the actual experience like to be on the ground at COP26?  From Day One, the Second Nature Field Team has been writing about their own experiences, and we have been posting those experiences on the Second Nature Anecdotes page. If you have not had a chance to read them yet, I encourage you to do so. You can find all of the currently available posts under the category, “COP26 Notes.” Be sure to check back often, as additional posts will continuously be added over this second week of COP26.  

In addition to reading the individual experiences shared by Tim, Steve, and Noa, we also wanted to provide a brief – and fun – recap of Week One! I asked all three various questions, and they chose which ones to answer. You can find those questions and each of their responses below. Enjoy!

What has been your most inspiring moment so far? 

“The protests! I protested for a few hours earlier today and I heard there were hundreds of thousands of people marching the streets of Glasgow? The energy was absolutely unreal, unlike anything I have ever experienced. There is something comforting about the masses that turned out and the passion that exuded from those crowds.” – Noa

“The Italian Education Minister. Thought his opening comments were great and good to know that at least one education minister in the world was making the deep connection and profound opportunity to connect education and climate.” – Tim

“Being able to witness the negotiation process via the daily briefing on the status of negotiations. These briefings are open to observers and allow countries to share their “interventions” on the process thus far.  Some examples below:
Trinidad & Tobago – Adaptation financing is far less than mitigation. Promises by wealthy countries since 2009 to reduce and end fossil fuel subsidies has gone unfilled. Current subsides other trillions compared to $2b/year available on the UN climate fund.
Bolivia – all talk about ambition. Developed countries keep breaking promises. We have history of negotiations and promises. Enough talk about ambition, let’s do the work.
Papua New Guinea – Loss and damage finance not discussed  – actually many island nations shared this frustration.” – Steve

What has surprised you? 

“How many significant announcements have been made in the first week. I thought the second week is when most of the announcements happened, and I know this year was a little weird with the world leader summit at the beginning, but it seemed like there were a bunch of high-level goals being announced throughout the first week. Not sure how well folks will execute on these goals, but at least it’s a start! 
Also, been running into a lot more people I know in random areas…standing next to schedule screens, waiting in line to register, outside a press event. Of the thousands of people in attendance and the hundreds of sessions to attend, I’ve been surprised that I’ve “run into” people a lot more randomly this year. Universe trying to say something?!?” – Ti

“How much meat and dairy there is! I had read that delegates would be served plant-based food, but this has overwhelmingly not been the case. Most food places do have at least one plant-based option, but I’m shocked how prevalent meat is here. It’s especially ironic because you can see the carbon footprint of different food items, and the meat-based food options typically have 6x the carbon footprint.” – Noa 

I agree with Noa, it’s interesting that there’s not even an attempt to limit meat and dairy. However, the menus all do share the carbon impact of each choice.” – Steve

What has been your favorite moment? 

“Attending the student protest – Fridays for the Future.” – Steve

“I really liked the Italian Education Minister discussing how education and climate action should be more closely aligned, and what the education ministers can do about it. This COP was the first time where a group of education ministers were in attendance, and he was the most impressive of the bunch. He started with describing health, education, and environment as public goods, and therefore something we have a responsibility to share together. Passion and clarity were great.” – Tim

“Getting to talk to Senators Jon Ossoff and Ed Markey. I had great conversations with both of them and both are some of my favorite members of Congress. I normally don’t feel inclined to speak to the prominent people walking around at COP, but I definitely had chills after those conversations.” – Noa 

Is there one thing that has made you laugh?

“Every time I see the empty Holy See seat at the plenary meetings, I chuckle. I just imagine one of these sessions where everyone walks in and the pope is sitting there with his laptop taking notes on the Article 6 discussions.” – Tim

“Figuring out the conference logistics is challenging. I’ve never seen so many people walking and looking at their phones at the same time. I have also seen a lot of people with two phones at the same time!” – Steve

What are your “Week One COP-isms”? 

“Low carbon economy, net zero, 1.5 degrees. These have become SUCH buzzwords, you hear them in pretty much every session and conversation and I feel like they’ve lost meaning.” – Noa 

“Youth voice”, “the internal combustion engine is dead, we just haven’t buried it yet”, and “vegetarian haggis.” – Tim

“Less blah, blah, blah, multi-dimensional approach, observers and civil society are left out of the negotiation process.” – Steve

Make sure to also follow us on Twitter (@LeadOnClimate) for “real-time” COP26 updates!