Remembering Forward: A Glimpse of COP26

Sustainability Nov 26, 2021

As the second week of COP26 rolled in, so did I on a Sunday morning into Glasgow Central. There was a strangeness to COP this time around. I have been aware of its existence over the last few years but this time, there was an almost attractive force that surrounded it and was drawing everyone into the epicentre. The effectiveness of this conference is debatable but what brought me to it, especially considering my work does not directly relate to climate change, was how it was drawing mission-driven and passionate people from all over. In that sense, my 48 hours in this Scottish city did not disappoint.

Although I'd been planning this for weeks, I didn't register for tickets until I could confirm my attendance and so was unable to get tickets for the events in the Green Zone. But on a grey Monday morning with faith in tow, I head up to the Glasgow Science Center in hopes to join the One Young World hosted a panel on the following topic:

Unlocking Climate Solutions: From the Pacific Islands to the Arctic, why Indigenous knowledge must take centre stage.

Due to the many no-shows, I lucked out and was only required to show vaccination proof before being allowed in. This was the only official COP event I attended but I learnt and took so much away from it.

Moderated by Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World, we heard from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment of Palau, Steven Victor as well as Ruth Miller, Climate Justice Director for Native Movement and belonging to the Dena'ina Athabaskan tribe of Alaska.

Piecing together my scribbles from my notebook of the day, a beautiful theme that was echoed by each panellist was love, respect, reciprocity. Ruth described that the concept of gift-giving among the indigenous people of Alaska - that you do not simply accept a gift but on receiving one, you are obliged to give back. Nature is often referred to as a gift but are humans reciprocating? Are we giving back in the same way as we are taking from her?

Another concept I learn of was Arctic Amplification - the phenomena referring to the enhancement of near-surface air temperature change over the poles relative to lower latitudes which means the Arctic faces the climate crisis 2 to 3x quicker than the rest of the world. At this point, the indigenous communities are lobbying for simply safeguarding - to have what they have always had. To not be displaced from the lands they have inhabited for generations. To stop the land grabbing that is rife.

But among the devastating facts we heard such as that 34% of fisheries globally are overfished, we also learnt of some of the regenerative and natural solutions that these communities are encouraging including kelp and giant clam farming. With the natural beauty of Palau attracting tourists from all over, they have launched an initiative called the Palau Pledge, an environmental pledge stamped in the passports of visitors, which they must sign before an immigration officer.

On the centuries of knowledge that is held in the indigenous communities and that has allowed them to live in a respectful, symbiotic relationship with Nature, the words of Minister Victor captured it perfectly: "I got educated abroad. Then came back home and learned."

After a drizzly run alongside the River Clyde and through Glasgow Greens, I got to meet the awesome OYW team at the Extreme Hangout on the Ferry. I had the privilege to meet the Crown Prince of Malaysia, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah, with some other ambassadors and young leaders. Once again, it was great to hear the different perspectives, localised challenges as well as solutions.

Someone who has attended every COP since they first started and is always impact-driven, Kate Robertson left us with the tangible outcomes we must see to start making a dent in this global challenge: the accuracy of communication, the accuracy of commitment and the accuracy of results.


Zubair Junjunia

Building ZNotes from age 16, outspoken promoter of UN SDG4 as One Young World & STEM ambassador, maths graduate from UCL. Staying sane by running, open-water swimming and figure & inline skating.