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Blog11 November 2021, 1631 UTC

Glasgow and Little Me | Reflections on COP 26

The UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, in Glasgow, UK, brings together world leaders for an opportunity to achieve pivotal, transformational change in global climate policy and action. Here, IAATO Climate Change Committee Chair, Pam Le Noury shares her thoughts on climate action and the power of the “little me’s.”

Demoralised. I guess that’s my main sentiment over the climate crisis. Demoralised that since COP 21 in Paris, with all our grand promises, we have lagged. The planet has lagged, my country has lagged, and I can’t judge because I’ve lagged too.

If each entity, back then, did their baseline calculation on their own greenhouse gas footprint, set emission reduction targets, followed them, and compensated for the rest then we might be on track. But we are, as a globe, NOT. We have passed 1°C of warming and are blazing towards 2°C.

My own excuse probably mimics a version of everyone else’s. My big talk and procrastination can be summed up as blah blah blah .

UN Climate Change Conference COP 26 is coming to a close in Glasgow, concluding with more promises and pledges. Climate is back on trend and important conversations are finally being given airtime. But how do we, little ‘me’s’, turn our collective ennui into motivation and ultimately into change, rather than leave it just to those in the top jobs?

COP26 Opened in Glasgow, UK on October 31 [image credit Kiara Worth]
With any seemingly insurmountable task, studies have shown that baby-steps is what will get you there. When the problem is great, you can feel small and powerless – one tends to put it off, ignore, avoid it. But just taking one baby step in the right direction, rather than trying to tackle the issue as a whole, is the way to start. The feeling of having done something, gives a sense of relief and motivation to do more. Then the intimidating task – the metaphorical mountain to climb – becomes simply a waypoint in the journey.

So what are the somethings we can do? Whether an individual, a company, a country or a continent the steps towards a climate strategy are really the same.

  • Understand your impact on our planet. Take stock of your life and habits. This could involve using one of many free carbon calculators to account for the emissions you create annually; household electricity, fuel, flights, food choices and so on. Look at what comes into your household and where those products come from. Are you re-using and recycling, what chemicals go down your drain – where does that end up?
  • Reduce your impact on our planet. Reduce, re-use, recycle. Carpool. Fly economy. See if you could web-conference instead of travel each time you have a meeting. Switch to local, lower impact products. Set targets on different impacts. Take your baby steps towards meaningful but realistic targets.
  • Compensate for the rest. There are so many creative projects whereby you can offset your carbon through verified programmes. Alternatively, you could get your hands dirty and re-wild your garden into a green space by including more indigenous plants that attract insects and then birds, get a micro-ecosystem going, part of a green corridor for wildlife in your area.
  • Tell your friends. People respond to stories over facts. A good orator trumps a scientific report, social media is how millions become informed. 9% of scientific papers are now in consensus that climate change is anthropogenic, but that’s just a statistic. We care about our social circles and standing, our income and savings, getting a holiday after lockdown. We love our planet and will participate in positive changes when they are made by our leaders, but why wait until then. Let’s share our own stories about the changes we are making?

Anyone who has experienced an epic journey – literal or metaphorical – knows that information is key. Everyone has an anecdote, a story, advice but always remember to fact-check for yourself.

[image credit Kiara Worth]
One common misperception that relates to climate (in)action is the over-population scapegoat. Population growth rate peaked in the late 1960s. Population size should peak by 2100 and a recent Lancet study estimated peak global population in 2064 at 9.7 billion. But the problem is not the number of people, it’s how we live.

The average per capita resource-use of someone in USA or Australia requires five planets to sustain. Whereas the average per capita resource use in Sri Lanka, Kenya or the Philippines is less than our one planet can provide, which means our incredible planet is capable of supporting us, just not to the extent we as a species are currently taxing it. Blaming ‘too many’ people is problematic because it suggests individual actions would be superfluous, but the power really is in our hands.

So, our world leaders are soon to say goodbye to Glasgow. We watch in hope that promises follow this time. But power is in our hands too; you can be carbon neutral by 2030, you can reach net zero.

We can stop languishing , pick a lane, take a stance, take small steps and make changes and tell our friends. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. And we, the ‘little me’s’, can accelerate the change needed to save lives and landscapes.


About the Author | Pam Le Noury

Pam Le Noury is the Head of Expedition Operations at Noble Caledonia and chair of the Climate Change Committee for IAATO. She has spent 20 years in and on the ocean exploring the remote wilderness areas of our planet, and she has seen how exposure to the natural world is concomitant with an urge to preserve it.

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