Postby Oscar » Thu Nov 25, 2021 9:53 am


by Glenn Wright – The Weaver, Saskatchewan Green Party – November/December 2021 – Page 5

[ ... ov-dec.pdf ]

I attended the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) climate conference in Glasgow from October 31, 2021 to Nov 12, 2021. This was the first COP conference that I have ever attended. The National Farmers Union of Canada offered to sponsor myself and 6 others to attend COP 26. Given that this COP was billed as “the last best chance to hold global warming to less than 1.5C”. I felt compelled to go even though I was anxious about the emissions associated with the trip -- and my doubts as to anything I could do to make a difference.

This COP conference was a COP like no other before it due to the pandemic. People from the global South were grossly underrepresented because of the restrictions on “red zone” countries and the vaccine apartheid – at the conference's start, many countries still had less than 5% vaccination among their populations. My impression was that the organizers seemed quite unprepared for the public health requirements
to ensure a safe COP 26, given the global pandemic. I could see this in the lack of social distancing, the lack of consideration for daily lateral flow testing for delegates from other countries, and the fact that the venues only had capacity for about 10,000 people, despite there being almost 40,000 participants registered.

It was very difficult to obtain audience with any of the Canadian government officials. Canada did not have a pavilion within the “Blue Zone” – the only Canadian presence was a small room for their delegation to meet. We went to that door and tried to engage with the staffers from the Canadian government, but this was nearly fruitless.

To get into the event required going through three stages of security, with the last stage being as rigorous as what is required to board an international flight. Furthermore, there was often a helicopter hovering overhead for the entire day to provide “eyes in the sky” for the ground security forces. Security was very tight on the first days for the World Leaders' Summit, and on Nov 8 when former president Barack Obama spoke. For the World Leaders' Summit, the security fences and police presence were extended for more than an additional ½ mile outside the first security entrance, with foot soldier police spaced about 30 ft apart.

With respect to the COP 26 event, there were three separate zones: the Blue Zone, the Green Zone, and the climate fringe. The Blue Zone required pre-approval from the UN and daily three stage security screening. All events in the Blue Zone were sanctioned and controlled by the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The Green Zone was an event sanctioned by the UK government and was meant more to showcase initiatives in the UK and presentations by some environmental NGOs or (in some cases) corporate greenwashing. The Green Zone venue was the Glasgow Science Center and there were only 3,000 daily tickets made available to the general public; these had to be obtained in advance.

The Blue Zone delegates had access with their badge to enter the Green Zone at their convenience. The climate fringe refers to all the events held all over Glasgow by many civil society organizations in parallel to the COP 26 conference. We spent the first 3 days trying to attend events in the Blue Zone, but quickly realized that many events in the climate fringe were more genuine and more accessible.

My approach to attending COP 26 was to engage with our local Saskatchewan media as much as possible before and throughout the COP. I thought that my focus would be best served trying to raise awareness in Saskatchewan of the coming changes in climate, energy, and policy in an attempt to normalize discussion about these issues. I have felt that Saskatchewan has been languishing in the denial phase of the climate crisis for far too long, and this is why I tried doing as much media work as possible. In total, I was interviewed nearly 20 times to date, but I anticipate doing more work to tell of COP upon returning home tomorrow.

With respect to the negotiations and substance of COP 26, the experience has helped validate and expand much of my thinking about the climate crisis. The most energizing experiences were participating in the Friday’s for Future march and the Global Day of Climate Action march. To see so many people demanding change helps someone like me, from Saskatchewan, know that we are not alone in the struggle for a stable climate. We marched with Canadian flags and this was very helpful to attract people with a connection to Canada and Canadian media. However, there were some who challenged us for carrying the flag, knowing the role of Canada in extracting dirty energy and oppressing Indigenous peoples. We tried to explain that not all Canadians support government policy and that we want to see a just transition now too. The marches were fantastic with about 30,000 on Friday and over 150,000 in Glasgow on Saturday. It was estimated that over 250,000 turned out to march on Saturday across the UK in total.

My other thoughts that have been reaffirmed through our COP 26 attendance relate to FOCUSING the climate justice movement. We are too scattered as a movement, our attention parceled out over trying to end capitalism and inequality, climate finance, loss and damage, adaptation, gender issues, the oceans, the global South, colonialism, ecocide, net zero, nature-based solutions, technology saviours, nuclear, Beccs, peace… and so on. This suite is not exhaustive of all the distractions that often serve to separate and divide activists. The facts are that coal, oil, and gas are responsible for over 80% of the problem, our survival problem. So that should be our focus, but unbelievably, after 25 prior COPs, the words coal, oil, and fossil gas have not appeared in the agreement texts. “Breakthroughs” at COP 26 were to see specific reference to “unabated coal” and “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, but this is wholly inadequate. Other, more positive, developments were the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, and the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels. These latest initiatives will hopefully focus attention on the principal causes of the climate crisis: coal, oil, and fossil gas.

The core message should be about reducing dirty energy and building clean energy. COP 26 has validated for me what I have been saying for some time now, that we must:

- Focus on efficiency and conservation
- Build only clean energy
- Regulate and price pollution

Anything else is distracting from the core issue.

COP 26 will only bring more incremental change from the top down. We need to mobilize from the ground up and focus on that which matters most. To do this effectively requires raising awareness, gathering allies, and presenting a unified message.

Yours truly in the struggle for a better future,

Glenn Wright

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Glenn and his wife, Shannon, farm near Vanscoy, Saskatchewan. Glenn practices law in Saskatoon as an associate lawyer with Wardell Gillis. Glenn has run in numerous federal and provincial elections since 2011 and was the Green MLA Candidate for the Saskatoon Westview riding in the 2020 Saskatchewan provincial election. He is a board member of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, SaskEV, and the Saskatchewan Barley Development Crop Commission. Glenn has also been an active member with Climate Justice Saskatoon and the National Farmers Union of Canada.
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