The UK Presidency: Setting An Example For The World

Alice Busvine

As destructive effects of climate change continue to become an unavoidable presence, anticipation for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, continues to mount upon the world stage. But here in the UK it is likely that this presence will be felt all the more keenly as, for this years’ summit, the city of Glasgow will play host to the event. Alice explores what this means for the UK.

As Glasgow continues to be prepare for the summit, it is important to question just why the UK presidency is so important, and how successful this presidency has been so far?

The city will host the conference from 31 October to 12 November. It is important that the UK takes its turn to host this conference, as the location of the summit moves from place to place, demonstrating the uniting nature of the conference. First and foremost, it is vital that all members retain an active role in working towards the global environmental aims.

Already this year under the UK presidency, preparations have been undertaken in Glasgow. This includes one of the most ambitious pledges made under the UK presidency, a promise that ‘The Clyde Climate Forest project, which is also known as CCF, hopes to plant up to 20% more trees in the more urban areas of Glasgow‘.

The BBC has reported that ‘Eight councils in the Glasgow area have already agreed to help hit the 18 million trees planted target’. It is actions such as these that remind us why the UK presidency is so important. With the resources and influential position the UK holds, it is possible for actions such as these to be undertaken. The UK is able, if it is also willing, to spearhead an example for the worldwide stage.

A raw visual demonstration in Tolbooth Steeple, Glasgow, will also help to spread awareness of aims of COP26. According to the Glasgow Times, ‘Glasgow’s Climate Clock shows the ‘deadline’ by which the world needs to lower carbon emission to avoid a 1.5C increase in global warming that will trigger irreversible climate changes’.

But who are the individuals spearheading these preparations ahead of the summit? This year, the individual that has been chosen to chair COP26 is Alok Sharma, a current Cabinet member, who was elected president in February of last year.

Having been the Conservative MP for Reading since 2010, Sharma served in Theresa May’s government as Minister of State for Housing and Employment. Sharma was later appointed to the Cabinet under Boris Johnson wherein he stepped into his new role as Secretary of State for International Development.

Some other individuals elected to help govern the presidency include Nigel Topping, the High-Level Climate Action Champion. Topping has previously worked as CEO of We Mean Business to aid the transition into a carbon-zero economy. Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, has also been appointed as the Climate Finance Adviser.

it is looking likely that dozens of countries will not have updated their pledges

But what have these individuals achieved so far within the UK presidency, and what will be achieved in Glasgow later this month to aid in the battle against climate change?

It has been six years since the pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, taken at the 2015 Paris Agreement. So, at this year’s summit, it had been expected that, under the rule that every five years these pledges would be updated, each country would have submitted their contributions to this promise.

Yet it is looking likely that dozens of countries will not have updated their pledges by the winter summit. Sharma has himself retained a brutal honesty about the state of the current statistics. He stated that countries who have pledged to lower carbon emissions have done ‘nowhere near enough to keep global warming below 2C, let alone the 1.5C needed to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change’.

Greta Thunberg criticised the UK government

In short, has enough been done both worldwide and under the UK presidency to ensure the 26th UN Climate Change Conference will aid in the battle against climate change?

As the figurehead for this year’s conference, it could be argued that more should have been achieved under the UK presidency to push COP26 goals. The upcoming conference having been delayed as a result of COVID-19 does not aid their defence, with much still being left unfinished ahead of the Glasgow summit.

In a viral speech, Greta Thunberg criticised the UK government at the Youth4Climate summit in Milan. Thunberg spoke out in a raw and poignant manor in response to aims laid out by Boris Johnson as she mimicked Net zero by 2050, blah bah blah. Climate neutral, blah blah blah’. ‘This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great, but so far have led to no action’.

The role of the UK presidency is so important as under it, decisions can be made that could help to propel the summit towards fulfilling their goals. Despite criticisms, under Johnson’s presidency more productive decisions have been made within the UK which helps to illustrate the aims of COP26.

Previous sponsorship for the conference has come from fossil fuel companies but, under the UK presidency, this has been replaced by sponsorships from more eco-friendly companies. Frost acknowledges within her article that organisers of the event have chosen companies that ‘have real commitments in place to help them reach net zero in the near future’. Becoming net zero remains a critical aim of COP26 and something which must be addressed by the UK presidency this year.

So, this November, the UK presidency will lead discussions on how to combat climate change. Yet, it is important not to forget who the real agents of change are. However important the roles of those within the UK presidency are, the role of the public remains all the more vital in combating climate change. Ultimately, it is us who also share some of the power to fulfil the aims of the upcoming COP26 conference, and this must be remembered as the summit approaches.

Alice Busvine

Photo by Samuel Pollard on Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @borisjohnsonuk via No changes were made to this image.

This article is part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series. For more articles on the conference check out the link here.

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