Copping On to COP

COP26 – What is it and why should I care?

COP26, the annual global climate summit, is scheduled to take place in Glasgow over the first 2 weeks in November this year.

Our climate has already heated by 1ᵒ Celsius. Further warming is already baked in, so to speak, based on our past emissions. The unsettling impact of this climate breakdown have become tragically apparent in 2021. From record-breaking heat waves, to wild fires, floods and droughts, in temperate climates and equatorial contexts, on the hills of Donegal as much as valleys of the Rhine, we have been confronted on an almost weekly basis by weather events so extreme that human-made climate change is the only viable explanation. It is thus vitally important that this COP meeting marks the turning point where agreements are finalized and ambition is converted into action.

If at this point you are wondering ‘What is a COP?’, ‘What happened in the previous 25?’, ‘Why should I care?’ and ‘Is a global meeting in a pandemic a good idea?’ you are not alone. These global meetings can seem obscure, with their inner workings hard to grasp and understand. The agreements are technical documents written for experts. The negotiations take place behind closed doors. The whole process seems like the opposite of transparent.

We can lament this fact and lobby for changes. But we also have to participate and get behind what is already happening. We do not have the luxury to wait around until we finesse the procedures. We need to start using those processes to achieve results.

Fortunately, if you have a problem understanding what is happening at COP, we have a solution! JCFJ are hosting a ‘COP-ON’ webinar on Tuesday, 28th September at 19:00 (GMT) which will aim to answer some of these questions. We have invited speakers who know the ins-and-outs of national and international climate politics, who have been to COP, and have the t-shirts to prove it.

Seán McDonagh is an ecologist and Columban Priest and has also authored several books including Climate Change: The Challenge to All of Us; Greening the Christian Millennium; Care for the Earth; and Dying for Water. With the understanding that everything is interconnected and the climate and biodiversity crises are two sides of the same coin, Sean will give an introduction to both COP26 on climate change, as well as COP15 on biodiversity which is taking place in Kunming in China this October.

Jerry Mac Evilly is Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth Ireland. He has over a decade of experience in policies and communications in the fields of climate action, energy, and sustainable development at national, EU, and UN level. Jerry will fill us in on why this particular COP26 meeting is so important and what we can do here in Ireland to help make it a success.

Elephant in the Room – The People’s Vaccine

While these massively important questions need to be discussed, we cannot deny that there is a question about whether it is fair and just that COP26 proceeds in November, considering many African climate activists – those facing the worst of the climate change impacts – are unvaccinated. The success of COP26 is vital in our fight against climate change. The failure to ensure that those most impacted are able to travel in safety stifles its chance of success.

Delaying the COP by a few months, while simultaneously working towards a People’s Vaccine, could be the difference between a successful COP where ambition is converted into action, and a COP in which the biggest polluters have again the biggest voice. The pandemic has shown us in a tangible, painful way, that it is true that everything and everyone is interconnected (LS §70). JCFJ is one of the environmental groups planning to represent Ireland’s activists at this event. But we have grave concerns about the wisdom of running an event meant to achieve justice, that effectively bars those most seriously affected from attending.

Conclusion: Act Now

This webinar is free. It is a chance to hear from some of the wisest and most experienced experts in Ireland on what COP is and about where we stand on climate and biodiversity action. We will create space to think about these things in light of the pandemic and the intersecting crises around housing and homelessness. You can register for free at Eventbrite or direct any questions to ecology [at] jcfj [dot] ie.