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Actions speak louder than words: high hopes for COP26

Women in Sustainability Glasgow came together to discuss our hopes for COP26 in Glasgow. What a wonderful, uplifting time we had!


My goodness, I’m still coming down from Monday evening's Women in Sustainability Glasgow hub event – what a massive buzz! So much brilliant content, insights, questions and discussion, and I hope you got as much energy and renewed hope from it as I did. Huge thanks to all 100 of you for signing up, as all net proceeds we’ve raised are going to The Hunger Project and their powerful Unleashed Woman movement.

If you weren’t able to make it, or want to watch the recording again here it is. With so much going on, I forgot to hit record at the start so I’ve stitched on my introduction which set the scene for COP26 – sorry about that!

The background to this event is I had the idea to reach out to prominent women leaders across the world and ask them to record short video messages about what they wanted to see happen as a result of COP26. I kinda reckoned if I got 6 videos I could make the event work, so I was blown away when I got 14 ‘yeses’ back!

I think if I’d thought about it for too much longer, I wouldn’t have done it – who knew that Katharine Hayhoe was quite the celebrity? I didn’t!

Approaching the project with a ‘well, if you don’t ask…..’ attitude opened so many doors. That’s one of the biggest things I’ll be taking away from this. And for 100 amazing women who all want to make a difference to come together wanting to learn from each other, well, I’m blown away. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We kicked-off by asking “In one word, how do you feel about COP26”. Such a mix of responses from stressed, worried and confused, but the most cited was HOPEFUL, followed by optimistic. What a great way to start our session!

We then watched the videos in 4 ‘batches’, which we discussed with our live panel. Thanks to Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance; Frances McCann, Scotwest Credit Union; Anne Johnstone, Fair Futures Partnership; and Jo Chidley, the Beauty Kitchen for your wonderful insights and for stimulating such rich conversation.

Batch 1: the Activists

  • Katie White, WWF
  • Namrata Chowdhary,
  • Clare Farrell, Extinction Rebellion

Thanks to Susan Grandfield for summing-up her key take-away so beautifully:

My key takeaway was that there are many different ways we can all contribute to creating the changes that need to happen.

I didn't see myself as an activist because I haven't been on marches or protests and haven't been arrested!! However, last night helped me see that we can all be activists in our own way; from switching from the big brands to buying sustainable and ethical products from Beauty Kitchen, to getting involved in the fridge events running as part of COP26 or community led events to address local inequalities or exercising civil disobedience through XR events.....we can each find our way to play our part and it is the combination of all of those approaches will will lead to shift in paradigm that is needed.

The crucial point is that each of us CAN have an impact, we are all significant in this movement and so it's down to each of us to take action today knowing that as a collective we WILL change things.”

Batch 2: the Politicians

  • Monica Lennon, MSP Scottish Labour
  • Lorna Slater, Co-Leader, Scottish Greens and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity
  • Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

After hearing from these politicians, we asked “what’s the problem?” They all seem to be saying the right things, but what’s stopping us? Or, as Greta Thunberg recently put it, is it:  “blah blah blah”?

Thanks to Heather Davies’ feedback on this one: “Politicians spend too much time looking downstream at what individuals are doing. They need to spend more time looking upstream at big business and policy to have a greater effect.”

Or, this from Theresa Agresta in the US: “I will call my US senators today to urge them to prioritise climate solutions in the two big $ bills headed to the President’s desk, with NO fossil fuel subsidies.”

Batch 3: what do we do?

  • Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions
  • Aileen McLeod, formerly of the European Policy Centre
  • Joanna Yarrow, Human Nature

So, how can we enact change, in our businesses, our communities and our everyday lives? Thanks to everyone who contributed to our Mentimeter ‘action board’ - see below - with so many takeaways as to what we have learned and we can do.

Batch 4: legacy, communities and future generations

  • Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council
  • Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance
  • Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

And finally, what is the legacy from COP26 for the city and its people? For me, these are the messages that resonated most: "Climate justice and social justice must go hand in hand", Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council. Sophie Howe stressed the importance of the responsibility we have to look after the planet for our children and those yet to be born, and called out short-termism in our politics. And finally, Katherine Trebeck highlighted the profound importance of The Glasgow Agreement (the document to come out of COP26) committing to the resources needed to help those who are most affected to withstand the impact of climate breakdown.

Thanks too to Frances McCann from Scotwest Credit Union and Anne Johnstone from Fair Futures Partnership for forcing us to think hard about what the legacy of COP26 could be for Glasgow's communities.

We continued our time together with a lively Q&A session – thanks for all the great questions!

And finally, we closed with asking everyone on the call to share one action or insight they will take away from the event. Thank you all for your heartfelt contributions!

We ended our session with a wonderful contribition from Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist based in Texas – one of the biggest oil-producing states in the US. Katharine's words are so powerful, leaving us with a sense of hope that WE can be the change.

It's in our hands.

My name is Katherine Hayhoe, and I'm a climate scientist.

Over the last few years, the number one question I hear wherever I go, no matter who I'm speaking to, is this: “what gives you hope?”

So often we look for hope in the headlines. And we don't find them there.

Every new science headline that comes out, it seems like things are worse than we thought; are changing faster than we thought; are affecting us to a greater extent than we thought.

The headlines are full of massive hurricanes out of control.

Wildfires, floods, heat waves, droughts, more.

When it comes to climate change, where do we find hope?

Often we feel like we have to wait for hope to find us before we act.

But it turns out it's exactly the opposite.

By acting, we find hope.

We find out about others who are acting.

We find out that climate change is not a giant boulder sitting at the bottom of a steep hill with only a few hands on it.

We understand that climate change, climate action, is a boulder that's already at the top of the hill.

It's already rolling down the hill in the right direction.

It already has millions of hands on it.

It just needs to get going faster.

Science even provides some hope, knowing that, yes, some impacts are already here today and we must build resilience.

Adapt to prepare for the impact that it's too late to avoid.

But the future is in our hands.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is crystal clear.

It is our choices that will determine our future.

We are the ones who have the ability to act. And when I say ‘we’, I mean everyone.

Because how did the world change before – with slavery, with women getting the vote with civil rights?

It wasn't because a President, or Prime Minister or a celebrity or CEO decided it had to.

It was because ordinary people said “this is not the way the world should,
or can be. It must change."

And how do we do that?

By using our voices to talk about why it matters, what we can do to fix it, and how by working together we truly can find that better world.”

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