Just about COPing

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

A whole bunch of educational organisations are taking the Glasgow meeting of COP26 seriously by either planning to be there to encourage delegates, by producing resources for schools, or holding webinars – or all three.  This follows government calls for "groups to bring the climate summit to life".  Just how they think their presence and activity will make a difference is unclear.  For many, it seems likely that Glasgow is just a place to be seen and a badge of honour to be worn.  The same applies in spades to the environmental NGOs who will attend in their multitudes.   The most likely outcomes of any educational activity are likely to be in the always-amorphous awakening of awareness / consciousness / interest / ... .  The challenge for educators lies in building on this, particularly working with individual schools, local authority and academy chains.

I find it hard to believe that their presence will achieve much even indirectly by way of carbon reduction.  The solid outcomes of the Paris Agreement wasn't because Greenpeace / WWF / etc were there; indeed, the success of Paris (limited though it was) was determined long before the event started through the understandings that were agreed in advance by big government beasts.  Attempts to do the same for COP26 are happening now, with John Kerry's wooing of China the other week being a prime example (and followed by a virtual summit on April 22nd/23rd hosted by the Americans).  At this meeting our prime minister said: "It's vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging.  What I'm driving at is this is about growth and jobs."  This was meant to reassure voters (who mostly weren't listening) and business (who assuredly were)  that the UK government was not surrendering to a XR-style, sacrifice of living standards, hope and aspiration.  Given that the costs of the transition to net-zero-carbon will be huge, and will have to be shared by tax-payers and the private sector, this was an attempt to reassure that it will be worth it.  Expect more of this around the G7 meeting in June.

So far, judging by what they failed to bring to the table at the virtual summit, China, Russia and India (serious emitters all) are going to be hard to get on side.  Getting China to shift the date of their net-zero carbon goal forwards is widely seen as a key outcome as it would imply more of a hurry to shift away from coal and emissions.  If they do: happiness; if they don't: misery.  No amount of educational resources eagerly taken up by schools will temper that reality.

The UK government, meanwhile, is taking the COP über-seriously with a lot of investment of time, money, and energy.  It's soft power post-Brexit, Green Britain on the world stage of course – and spending megabucks in the SNP heartland.  What's not to like?  If only the DfE had got the memo it might have encouraged schools to get more involved.

I'll not be COPing in Glasgow.  But I am hoping that China can be persuaded to play ball.  It could do with some good publicity so maybe it will.  However, the fact that Chinese state-owned energy companies have recently built four coal power plants in the EU's backyard (Bosnia Herzegovina) since 2010, and have a further four planned, suggests that it won't be in a hurry to do so.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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