COP26, the annual global climate summit, closed just over a week ago. Its purpose, to highlight the importance of climate action and hasten the transition away from coal and non-renewable fuels, was clear. Eton’s Mademoiselle Herbommez, Master-in-Charge of the Environment Society, and Cosmo Le B, Keeper of the Environment Society, represented our institution at the Glasgow summit and gathered valuable insights.

Back at Eton, tutor groups discussed their understanding of the climate crisis and hopes for the summit. Many pupils were able to keep track of developments through the updates that Cosmo regularly added to the Eton Sustainability Firefly page. He also delivered a speech himself in one of the breakout zones, on his personal climate journey and what our ‘Environment at Eton’ group has achieved so far.

COP26 drove home the urgency of the situation.

Cosmo Le B, Keeper of the Environment Society

When Press Officer Hasan A spoke to Cosmo earlier last week, he explained that the COP ‘drove home the urgency of the situation’. One of the most positive things that came out of the conference was the comprehensive media coverage that elevated the climate crisis to the top of the world’s political and economic agendas. Yet both America and Australia, two of the biggest polluters in the developed world, called into question whether they needed to upgrade their national climate policies, known as ‘nationally determined contributions’ or NDCs. The head of the European Climate Foundation has said that ‘on NDCs, this COP has not seen what it should have…that’s why it’s really important that this meeting was finally able to obtain agreement to revisit them next year.’

Criticisms of COP26 included the limited representation of indigenous communities and young people at the conference, something that Cosmo agreed with. Many of the final agreements have been undermined by legal loopholes, with a last-minute change of wording – from ‘phase out’ to ‘phase down’ – in relation to the shift away from coal production. There were positives, however: the innovative and inspiring projects of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) were a real highlight. Cosmo added that, ‘We need better representation of the youth, global south, indigenous communities and minorities – who have powerful voices and who are being impacted first by the consequences of the climate crisis’.

The final thought from our Keeper of the Environment Society? ‘Ultimately, widespread behavioural change, partnered with long-term and quantifiable policy making, is the only solution for the biggest crisis facing humanity.’