Everything Else

u3a’s experience at COP26

A group of people standing in front of a bus

What happened

Trust u3a’s Countdown to COP26 has been meeting online for the last year to talk about the environment and what can be done. The group has a membership of over 40 members.

Through contact with Climate Reality, Brenda, the co-leader of the Trust Countdown to COP group, recognised that u3a could contribute to COP26. The group ran four workshops in Glasgow to explore ‘Intergenerational Climate Action’.

Approximately 30 members took part – here are four reflections:

Clive experienced an immersive visit to a Moroccan farmer who had lost his house to the desert and a planetarium experience entitled ‘Our place in the Cosmos’.

Brenda was shocked that 500+ delegates at the conference were linked to the fossil fuel industry – bigger than any country’s own representation. She was moved by hearing Tina Stege, Climate Envoy from the Marshall Islands, which could disappear under the sea over the next 50 years.

The Climate Justice March of over 100,000 was a highlight. Unbelievably, several of the group found their friends on the march!

One unforgettable image from the conference was of Tuvalu in the Pacific: the Foreign Minister standing at a podium, up to his knees in the sea – or the XR protester having tears wiped by a woman with an indigenous heritage.

The u3a workshops took place on an electric bus –with all mod cons. It worked well with comfortable seating.

It was wonderful to meet people face-to-face, after so much zooming. Brenda’s highlight was meeting former Vice President Al Gore who set up the Climate Reality Project. Brenda was one of nine Climate Reality Leaders chosen to meet him at his hotel and says, ‘Mr Gore was really interested in learning about our u3a workshops about Intergenerational Climate Action. He was well-briefed and totally charming’.

Ann was impressed by a representative of the Transnational Institute researching the military and climate change. Nick’s highlight was the Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales. They were knowledgeable, articulate and committed.

Through the workshops, members started to thrash out what was meant by ‘Intergenerational Climate Action’ and came away convinced that this is an area to work on further.

Some members generated much media attention! Brenda was interviewed twice while in Glasgow and then again, back at home. Clive starred in his local newspaper. Ann was interviewed by a film crew – because she asked them for directions!

The COPs are a jamboree, but critical to climate action progress. The buzz was inspirational; Ann left, wanting to inspire hope. Several members felt a sense of ‘stubborn optimism’ – despite disappointments about the final ‘Glasgow Pact’. The commitments coming out of the COP are at least moving us in the right direction to meet the 1.5-degree target.

COP26 was a unique opportunity to experience and possibly influence the future of the world. Many positive promises were made to reduce carbon emissions. Success will be achieved if the promises are carried out and if nations return each year with even bolder Nationally Determined Contributions.

Join the group on Trust u3a.