Predictability and foresight are somewhat passé these days. We have all had to cancel numerous business trips and private vacations by now. And trying to organise the upcoming summer holidays is a challenge, to put it mildly. Between longer than anticipated vaccination queues and new exotic COVID versions popping up here and there around the world, met by variable policies, the sheer thought of making a plan can be exhausting.
Imagine planning a global event, though. What a nightmare! I certainly don’t envy the poor Japanese souls in charge of putting together the summer Olympics, for instance. Or, for that matter, those Glasgow fellows, preparing to welcome thousands of delegates from nearly 200 countries ahead of the COP26 meeting in November. The highly anticipated climate summit has already been delayed by one year due to the pandemic. Like with everything else nowadays, the risk remains that it could be postponed again.
The COP summits are important, mind you. Except for last year, delegates have met each year since 1995 to review the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change implementation. COPs are where climate change negotiations happen, where policies are designed, and alliances forged. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP3 in 1997. At COP21 in Paris, the famous “Paris Agreement” was reached. And who knows what wonders might be achieved in Glasgow, were the summit to go ahead as planned this November.
So, naturally, I was delighted to read in the news earlier this week of one possible obstacle being removed. The hosts of this year’s event, the UK, announced that they are prepared to donate vaccines well ahead of the summit to those delegates who cannot procure them any other way. The organisers might have been gently nudged by activists, concerned that the uneven rollout of vaccines would undermine the negotiations. Greta Thunberg, for instance, announced earlier this year that she was not planning to attend the meeting unless delegates from all countries could take part on the same terms.
Rooting for the summit to happen is one thing; following the lively discussions ahead of it online is also highly recommended. Partly because comments from anonymous netizens can be quite entertaining, like this one I read the other day: “Whoever decided to organise a conference about global warming in Glasgow in November obviously has a sense of humour!” Jokes aside, there have been concerns as to the summit’s agenda, or rather lack thereof. Earlier this year, Politico gave voice to some of the sceptics calling the upcoming meeting visionless and fearing that it will account to “little more than a photo opp, speeches and drinking Scotch.”
There is also the more obvious debate about whether it is strictly necessary to fly in thousands of delegates and squeeze them all in the venues, hotels (and pubs) of Glasgow while the world is not entirely out of the COVID-woods yet. It is not just the health safety concerns that provoke reactions, though. Netizens argue that it would have been much better to hold this conference virtually. “Hundreds of people jetting in and emitting hundreds of tonnes of carbon in the process is rank hypocrisy,” to quote one of the critical voices.
It is a valid point. Although the extroverts among us are getting desperate for actual physical meetings, heated face-to-face discussions and reconciliatory parties of the old-fashioned type, we might need to reconsider. We should probably examine the efficiency of gathering IRL and compare it to that of the virtual forum alternative.
Still, I keep my fingers crossed and hope that COP26 will happen, one way or another. Above all, I hope Glasgow will rise to the occasion and become another milestone on the road to sustainability, like Kyoto and Paris did.
 COP, for those of you not in the loop, is an abbreviation for Conference of the Parties, the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.