COP26 November Blog Post
With the wake of COP26 beginning to settle, we reflect upon our time in Glasgow:
Our journey to COP is strangely connected to our Energy Transition Conference in 2018 where Clair Perry, the then BEIS Energy Minister, had pledged to bring COP26 to the UK. This was followed by a formal bid later that year that was successful in the UK being declared joint hosts of COP26 with Italy. She presented at our conference back in 2018 as part of Great Big Green Week (which also was the 10th anniversary of the Climate Change Act). Here, Clair Perry acknowledged the power of Community Energy to demonstrate what NetZero Energy Transition action can actually look like and how community energy is often a sandbox of innovation, setting out a proactive pathway for the changes needed to transition away from fossil fuels.
Fast forward 3 years since making that pledge, and the UK has hosted COP26 with Italy. Kwasi Kwarteng is now the BEIS Energy Minister and recently acknowledged community energy’s role in the recent Energy White Paper.
On Sunday 31st October, the day before the commencement of COP26, David Tudgey, our project development manager and Emilia Melville, our project coordinator, travelled up to Glasgow by train. David and Emilia’s travel was kindly imbursed by our colleagues at Patagonia Bristol. We attended COP26 with Community Energy England to spread our message of ‘Net Zero is Not Possible Without People- We Need Community Energy’!
David Tudgey’s journey was a bit more exciting than planned as many trains were cancelled on route to Glasgow and as a result, David was fortunate enough to meet delegate Professor Jonathan Bamber who provided his insights into previous COPs and why this COP was so important. This youtube video from COP26 covers themes of their conversation His predictions of lack of action by politicians were unfortunately realised, with the world’s largest and wealthiest economies failing to make commitments needed to keep warming below 1.5 º C. Scientists have estimated that pledges made at COP26 will ensure a 1.8 º C – 2.4º C warming. Countries that have contributed the most to global emissions have also failed to meet the $100 billion climate finance pledge in order to help the most vulnerable communities mitigate and adapt to climate change; this pledge is not projected to be met until 2023.
The importance of keeping warming below 1.5 º C was rationalised by the Ugandan climate activist, Vanessa Nakate, “Finance for adaptation is critical, but for many of us in vulnerable countries, adapting to climate change is no longer enough. You cannot adapt to starvation. You cannot adapt to extinction. You cannot adapt to lost culture and heritage.”
It is for this reason that we are so disappointed that more was not agreed at COP to reduce actual emissions of greenhouse gases.
Hope Lies Outside Politics
Whilst the politics of COP26 failed to deliver what is needed, it is evident that a wealth of hope lies within local communities.
The outcome of COP26 was expectedly underwhelming, but is progress nonetheless. Progress which requires vigilance and pressure to keep action on 1.5 C alive, along with the UK’s NetZero target by 2050. We will be keeping up the pressure so that the pledges made by our government are kept, and that policies and funding are forthcoming to support communities achieve NetZero. We’ll be discussing strategies for this at our next Energy Transition conference in Spring 2022.
Our optimism comes from the incredible people and organisations David and Emilia met such as WWF African Energy Hub, City of Orlando Sustainability & Resilience Director, The Pollockshire Trust, ReTool Architecture, Radical and Renewable Art Activism Fund, Bring Back British Rail, North Kensington Community Energy, Glasgow Community Energy, and members from Community Energy England to name a few…. Community organisations, NGO’s, villages, towns, cities across the world are taking action in their communities.
(Meeting Chris Stark CEO of Climate Change Committee discussing the importance of including Community Energy in NetZero pathway)
It was evident that there is an increasing coalition between civil society, business, finance and NGO’s. The presence of the business/finance sector was drastically bigger at Glasgow than at all previous COPs. However, it is evident that there are still drastic policy changes needed if, for example, it is to be easier for private finance to invest in a new wind farm than a new coal mine.
Emilia and David’s week ended in Glasgow with The Global Day of Action for Climate Justice March on Saturday 6th which saw over 100,000 people take to the streets of Glasgow, while the Friends of the Earth brought a ‘Stop Cambo’ demonstration to Glasgow the following day. Check out David speaking to France 24 News whilst at the protest on the Saturday here:
While we are all immeasurably angry that our leaders aren’t doing enough to limit the devastating impacts of anthropogenic climate change, we should channel this anger into action. David sums this up upon his return from COP26: “We as individuals can join together in our families, communities, villages, towns, cities and regions to lead the way to net-zero. National governments have no choice but to follow us. We don’t have time to wait for them to decide to lead the way. We must all lead by example and be the change we want to see in the world.”
We can all make our own pledges here.
You can watch David speak about the importance of community energy on the ‘COP26- 100% Renewables Panel Event here.
And finally, a powerful demonstration of Community Energy working together with the local authority there was exciting development for the Ambition Lawrence Weston wind turbine project…
While we were at COP, the lease agreement for the Ambition Lawrence Weston wind turbine was agreed. This will see Bristol City Council let the land, where the wind turbine will stand, to Ambition Community Energy (ACE) for thirty years, below market value. This is an exciting step in the right direction to getting the UK’s largest on-shore wind turbine supplying affordable energy to 3,500 homes in Lawrence Weston in 2022!
We engaged with BEIS Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng who has said we do need to meet to discuss community energy… and we have written to request this meeting…
Darren Jones MP has pledged to support Community Energy and organise meetings with Barry Gardener MP in Parliament. Darren is also championing community energy locally in Bristol with his colleagues Nicola Beech and Dan Norris, so that we can ensure community energy is supported in the city and the whole of the West of England region.
We plan to meet NGOs from around the world to discuss climate action and community energy pathways to NetZero.
We have invited Community Energy England to Co-host our Next Energy Transition Conference in Spring 2022.