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A “You” Guide Post-COP26: What Can You Do to Keep the Momentum Going?

The world climate summit may be over.

But it’s left us a climate “to-do” list.

COP26 ended last week with the Glasgow Climate Pact. This landmark deal has set out some ambitious tasks. Not least to keep global warming to 1.5C. The global climate summit saw governments, corporations, climate experts, and Indigenous communities negotiate pledges on issues such as stopping deforestation, cutting methane, ending coal use, and boosting zero-emissions vehicles. Now, those promises must be acted upon. Not just by worlds leaders, big business, and environmental groups. But by everyday people – citizens of the world – like us.

So what can we do to help achieve the COP26 goals? If COP26 highlighted one thing, it was that where you live determines what you experience in terms of climate change.  Island nations, Indigenous Peoples, and developing countries are losing homes, livelihoods, and lives to floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and deforestation caused by richer nations’ actions. So everything we do in our day-to-day life has an impact on the planet, from the food and the clothes we buy, to what we eat and the cars we drive.

Here we take a look at some of the small actions we could take to support the key outcomes of this historic climate summit.

1. Eat less meat

According to FAO data, animal agriculture is responsible for 14% of GHG emissions globally. At least 40% of these emissions are methane. Most climate summits have focused on CO2, the main cause of post-industrial global warming. However, methane is responsible for approximately 30% of the 1.1C global temperature increase to date. Moreover,  atmospheric concentrations of the gas have rapidly increased since 2007. The US, Japan, and Canada were among the signatories of another COP26 landmark pledge to cut emissions of methane by 30% by 2030. What can we do to support this pledge? How about switching the chicken for chickpeas, the burgers for beans, and going meat-free every Monday? During COP26, supermarkets such as Coop offered practical swaps, in-store and on social channels, to show customers how simple and empowering it is to buy less and eat less meat. Or head to the web for a plethora of delicious, nutritious, and earth-kind plant-based recipes. If every UK family swapped to one vegetarian or vegan meal a week, it would have the same impact as taking 16 million cars off the road. 

2.  Work out your carbon footprint

The central goal of COP26 was to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Post-Paris Agreement scientific data shows definitively that 1.5C is much safer than 2C. And that every fraction of a degree counts. The Glasgow Climate Pact requests countries to “revisit and strengthen” 2030 climate plans by the end of next year. But how do you work out the impact what you do, buy, and eat may be having on the environment? It’s easy. Just head to the World Wildlife Fund carbon footprint calculator. You might be surprised to see how minor adjustments – carrying a reusable bag or cycling to work rather than getting the bus – can have major results. 

3. Choose sustainable brands

COP26 offered vulnerable countries and communities – as the main victims of climate change –the chance to force discussions with and action from richer countries. Backed by a pre-conference UN report that found that the cost of climate impacts are 5-10 times higher than the amount of financial aid on offer from rich nations, developing countries achieved a $500 billion offer over the next 5 years. Plus, a commitment for this money to be spent on adaptation and not emission cuts. This is significant because most current climate finance funds emissions-cutting projects, in middle-income countries. How can citizens of developed nations help redress this balance? By checking the environmental and social impact of what we buy, wear, and eat before we buy, wear, and eat it. Nowadays, this information is readily available, so available in fact, that “greenwashing” is an issue. However, by getting into the habit of checking the sustainability credentials of what you purchase means you can make informed choices that are better for people and the planet. Where possible, choose a brand that cuts emissions rather than offsets them. 

4. Save and Switch Energy

In spite of being a key driver of climate change, fossil fuels did not get a mention in the Paris Agreement. Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel of all. According to International Energy Agency data, the world has no hope of staying within 1.5C of global heating without a rapid phase-out of coal. However, in a breakthrough COP26 deal, more than 20 countries – including the US – agreed to stop financing most new oil and gas projects. Whilst the final text of the pact was weakened at the last minute – India insisted on “phasing down” to replace the stronger “phasing out” – it shows a real commitment to ending coal power. At a grassroots level, we can support this deal by using less energy at home. Try switching off standby appliances, turning the heating down a fraction of a degree, hang clothes to dry instead of using a drier! Equally, consider switching to a renewable energy supplier. Or replacing your petrol or diesel-fuelled car with an electric one. Or even nothing at all.

5. Go paperless

Another COP26 victory saw leaders, representing over 85% of the world’s forests promised to halt and reverse deforestation. Plus, stop land degradation by 2030. £8.75 billion of public funds will be committed to protecting and restoring forests. This will be bolstered by £5.3 billion of private investment. The announcement was part of an unprecedented package of economic and political commitments to end deforestation worldwide. Going paperless is a small but powerful way to support this historic agreement. Choose to receive letters, invoices, and statements via email. Print off documents only if necessary. Unsubscribe from brands that still send out hard copy brochures and marketing. Then hug a tree.

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