6 top tips for getting the most out of COP26

COP26 is officially opening in Glasgow on Sunday (31 October). For first-time COP attendees looking for more climate treats than tricks this Halloween, edie has pulled together advice for getting the most out of the event.

6 top tips for getting the most out of COP26

We've collated advice from those who have attended multiple COPs

More than 190 world leaders will descend on Scotland’s biggest city in less than 48 hours’ time, along with tens of thousands of business leaders, environmental experts and climate activists from across the globe – for what is the most important UN meeting since the formation of the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015.

Much has been said about what will be needed from the negotiations and what the UK Government should do to change policymaking domestically, raising the bar on the international stage as well as driving progress towards its own net-zero target.

But what should those of us in the sustainable business space do to prepare, practically and mentally? The edie editorial team – all of whom will be experiencing their first in-person COP – reached out to our networks to ask for the key pieces of advice from those who have attended several times before.

1) Comfort is key when it comes to clothing…

Starting with a practical point: Glasgow is expecting highs of 11C, lows of 2C and a lot of rain during the first week of COP26, which is to be expected for this time of year. So, make sure you have enough warm clothes and a sturdy pair of shoes. Climate Change Committee chief Chris Stark has jokingly tweeted that wellies are advisable.

Contacts to have been at previous COPs have emphasised the importance of packing comfy socks, and more pairs than you think you’ll need, as there is likely to be a lot of walking involved. A scarf and cardigan are also a must, as different venues will be at different temperatures.

There is no dress code but most of our network seem to be opting for something below business formal and above business casual, so you’re ready for anything from a brief meeting with a world leader to a casual drink with a long-time contact in the evening.

The edie team’s must-have accessories for this fortnight are a power bank for your mobile phone, a refillable water bottle, your required paperwork, your business cards or QR codes, painkillers (in case of headaches) and an emergency snack

2) … But not when it comes to your mindset

In a nutshell, comfort, practicality, ease and presentability are good qualities to channel for the contents of your suitcase. But with all COPs prior to this having failed to put the world on track to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, these are not good qualities to channel for your mindset during the conference.

This week’s UN emissions gap report confirmed we are on a 2.7C temperature pathway. This will mean that all coral will be extinct by 2050. Millions of people will be exposed to water stress and heatwaves in the coming decades. Droughts and extreme weather events will disrupt supply chains, causing mass migration and major economic fallout. There is also, already, a 5% chance of warming beyond 4C by 2100. Scientists do not know whether human life will be sustainable at that point.

COP is a great chance to catch up with familiar faces but it must also be used as an opportunity to broaden the conversation and to move from ambition to action at the scale and pace so desperately needed, in a manner that is intersectional and does not leave those on the frontlines of the climate and nature crises behind.

It is due to the tireless and collaborative work of activists, community organisations, scientists, academics, NGOs, business leaders and others that net-zero has grown into a global movement in such a short period. That same momentum, and a desire to challenge business-as-usual and sustainability-as-usual, needs to be maintained. Yes, we need to take time to recharge and recognise our achievements, but resting on our laurels for an extended period is not an option.

3) Pre-plan your daily schedule

HM Revenue and Customs’ head of sustainability Alex Hilton, who has attended the past two COPs, has emphasised the importance of efficiently planning each day before it begins.

He has suggested that, instead of trying to attend meetings in the Blue Zone, Green Zone and outside of the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) each day, attendees should try and allocate time in blocks. This means more talking, listening and meeting, and less time walking and queueing.

It’s also worth double-checking which places you have access to. Most attendees will be permitted into the Green Zone only. Glasgow City Council and various businesses are calling events outside of the SEC the ‘Pink Zone’.

You can find the COP26 Presidency Programme here and Green Zone Programme here. If you’re looking to plan days in line with the UK COP26 Unit’s five chosen themes, you may wish to download edie’s free COP26 Primer Reports as a handy reference.

Primer Reports are available on the following topics: Clean EnergyClean TransportAdaptation & ResilienceNature-Based Solutions, and Climate Finance.

4) Remember the Covid-19 guidelines

With thousands of people expected at the SEC, social distancing measures have been put in place, meaning that tickets for many official events are likely to be limited. It is best to register as soon as possible, and to get to non-ticketed events early to ensure the venue does not reach capacity.

There are also strict testing and self-reporting requirements to enter the Blue Zone. Every Blue Zone visitor must provide an email or SMS confirmation of a negative lateral flow taken that same day, for every day they are attending. There are no exceptions to this rule.

In keeping with the UK Government’s guidelines, mask-wearing is not mandatory but is, rather, a personal choice, at official events in the Green Zone and Blue Zones. Businesses and other organisations operating unofficial events or official events outside of the SEC may require mask-wearing unless you are exempt.

5) Stay in the loop…

The 48 hours before the conference officially opens are prime time to register for all of the RSS feeds, email newsletters and daily briefings you want to keep an eye on.

You can sign up for edie’s COP26 Covered Podcast, which is publishing daily from 30 October to 12 November, now. The COP26 Covered podcast is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, or bookmark this page to see the full list of podcast episodes as they appear. 

You can sign up for edie’s daily and weekly email newsletters by logging in on edie.net and clicking “user profile” in the bar at the top. The daily newsletters will be seven days a week during COP26 and weekdays only thereafter.

edie is an official Race to Zero Media Partner and Accelerator.

Other resources are available, and some of our favourites include the Greenhouse blog and newsletter, and the climate diplomacy briefings from Ed King at the European Climate Foundation.

6) … But don’t get distracted

As we can see from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all aspects of sustainability – environmental, social and economic – are interconnected. There will be events on – and headlines regarding – a huge spectrum of topics this coming fortnight, from aviation to the Amazon rainforest; cleantech to carbon offsetting; energy to social equality.

Official negotiations, in and of themselves, are a complex process, with five workstreams and at least 100 agenda items. Add on the events hosted by national governments, NGOs, academia, businesses and all manner of other groups, and the scope of discussion points is extensive to say the least.

Here at edie, we will be spinning many plates, as the observers and negotiators will be. But most attendees will wish to choose a handful of issues to focus on to avoid overwhelm and maximise the positive outcomes.

And, if you want to take a leaf out of edie content director Luke Nicholls’ book, it is worth noting down key takeaways and soundbites on each day and taking 10 minutes in the evening to run through them and collect your thoughts.

Do you have any other advice for first-time COP attendees? Let us know in the comments.

You can find our full plans for covering COP26 here and all related content here.

edie Staff



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