Reflections On Walking To COP26
It has been easy to get wrapped up in the latest announcements from the global climate summit in Glasgow. To be overexcited or hugely disappointed by the headlines of countries that are – or are not – pledging to halt deforestation, cut methane levels, end overseas fossil fuel finance, etc.
At the same time, it has been all too easy to forget that the majority of people are indifferent to these announcements and many are not even aware of COP26. They are busy making ends meet or simply choosing not to listen to the news. The pledges that emanate from COP26 are remote and ethereal, even if the damaging effects of the climate crisis are close and tangible.
Given such differing levels of engagement, what purpose did we serve by walking 500 miles from London to Glasgow? Why shine a light on local climate action at a global climate summit? The answer is simple enough. Not only do we need a handful of people in Glasgow to walk the talk on net zero emissions, we need millions of people up and down this country, and elsewhere, to join in and make it happen – however imperfectly.
From my point of view, COP26 has been an opportunity to widen rather than concentrate the debate and engagement on climate action. The walk and our encounters on the journey were one small way of affirming that people, communities and place are at the heart of a global transition to a carbon zero future.
The events we hosted en route inspired: we met people who are making change happen now. Convening councils, companies and communities – for example, in a local church in St Albans or at a corporate headquarters in Coventry or in a community centre in Moffat – was a great way of encouraging more crossover between different organisations and making new connections. To change everything, we need everyone on board.
One of the big objectives of COP26 is to work together to address the ongoing climate crisis. This is something that we saw first-hand in the regions, cities and places we passed through. From our send off in Camden at the Think & Do community space to the festival organised in Morecambe to the Langholme Initiative, one of the largest community-led ecological restoration projects in southern Scotland, people are banding together to amplify their impact on the ground. Without doubt, people's energy is the ultimate source of renewable energy!
In listening to lots of different people on my 500-mile journey, I rediscovered that climate action is really about community, care, repair and renewal. There are countless opportunities beyond COP26 that we can seize to address the climate crisis and bring others along with us. This is a journey and Glasgow is a moment in time, not the destination.