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Round-up: Public engagement events at COP26

By Amiera Sawas on October 20, 2021

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the 26th International Climate negotiations, or ‘COP26’, where do people feature? This round-up pulls together all the publicly available information, to date, on events within and around the official COP26 venues that are focused on public engagement on climate change. Please amplify! And to find out more about the events that Climate Outreach is specifically involved in, visit our Climate Outreach at COP26 page.

A boy at the Lake Turkana wind turbine plant in Kenya.

Importantly, Climate Outreach understands engagement to be more than participation of select groups – we are focused on initiatives that can demonstrate and empower people’s agency to act on (and talk about!) climate in their personal and political lives, and to bring a broad base of the public into the climate change conversation, so that there is a unified and clear social mandate that holds governments and institutions accountable.

People are critical to catalysing the global transition to a 1.5C world. They also have a right to know about climate impacts and how to take action to reduce emissions, to adapt to these impacts and to build resilience. They have a right to be central to dialogues and policy processes so that they can get behind and support sustainable change. But decision makers have a long way to go to put people at the centre, which requires investment into processes of public engagement that create meaningful, two-way dialogues between decision makers and people.

What is clear from this round-up is that meaningful public engagement is increasingly coming to the fore in the ‘Green Zone’, where the public have an opportunity to make their voices heard, but that it remains on the backburner – and indeed barely visible – in the ‘Blue Zone’ where the governments, practitioners and other powerful decision makers come together. 

Additionally, since young people are the future, it is inspirational to see that they are the focus of many, if not the majority, of the public engagement activities at COP. However, we need the rest of society to catch up and bring the same energy and enthusiasm for climate action in all spheres of life. There remains a limited purposeful engagement of other groups of people across society in and around COP26.

There is, therefore, still a critical learning journey for the decision makers and practitioners of climate change work, based in the Blue Zone – governments, civil society, scientists and the private sector – in understanding that we cannot reach a 1.5C resilient and just transition without a focused and resourced emphasis on engaging broad-based publics across the world. 

Farmers harvest jute, a fibre suited for sustainable and biogradable materials. West Bengal, India.

What kinds of public engagement events are on at COP26?

Public engagement events at COP26 fall into a range of categories. They have primarily been organised by civil society organisations, academics, youth groups and arts organisations. There are a small number of events organised by the private sector and governments. 

The events can be largely categorised under the following themes:

A. Events rooted in the arts – to stimulate awareness of climate change and the actions that citizens can take, including:

  • Immersive digital experiences, such as films and art installations
  • Performing arts, including theatre, music, dance and poetry
  • The pairing up of scientists and citizens with arts actors on joint ventures

B. Events sharing the evidence base, experience of and/or need for effective public engagement and climate communications, including panels with:

  • Environmental psychologists
  • Climate communications experts
  • Media and broadcasters
  • Climate assembly organisers and members 

C. Events showcasing the inspirational climate action and engagement work by groups of people and institutions at the grassroots, including:

  • Faith groups
  • Young people
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Women and girls
  • Unions
  • Volunteers

D. Events offering people practical tips and tools on how to make changes in their own lives and lifestyles to support the transition to a 1.5C degree world, for example:

  • Decisions over personal finances and pensions
  • Transport options and choices
  • Food options and choices 
  • Support and access to nature, conservation and biodiversity
  • How to become involved in climate activism
  • How to access education and opportunities in the green economy

E. Events focused on the Action for Climate Empowerment agenda (ACE) and negotiations specifically, for example:

  • A focus on ensuring climate change is embedded in education and learning
  • A focus on influencing the update of the Doha Work Programme

F. Awards ceremonies for groundbreaking climate change action, including for:

  • Young climate scientists and activists
  • Civil society organisations catalysing change

G. Cross-cutting events such as festivals and summits, that incorporate a range of events covering various public engagement topics. 

This roundup was prepared by Climate Outreach as part of our role within the CAST Centre (the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations). CAST is a global hub for understanding the role of people in shaping a positive low-carbon future. We work to understand and accelerate the systemic and society-wide changes needed to address climate change. CAST is a consortium of five UK universities and charity Climate Outreach, and our work is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

By Dr Amiera Sawas

Amiera led Climate Outreach’s research and engagement teams until 2023. She was responsible for overseeing the programmatic and research implementation of the organisation’s strategy. Amiera has diverse experience in climate, environment and development research and programming work, across the private, non-governmental and academic sectors. This has taken her to various countries including Sweden, Pakistan, Jordan and Kenya. As a result, she’s really passionate about the potential of bringing diverse stakeholders together to combat climate change and set an inclusive vision for our collective future.

Amiera has a PhD in Human Geography, a Masters in Global Politics and a Bachelors in Psychology.

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