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Get your allotments involved! UN climate summit – COP26

What’s COP26?

Officially a general term meaning ‘Conference of the Parties’, the most well-known COP is the annual conference officially known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The 25th annual COP – COP25 – was recently held in Madrid (although it was originally planned for Chile, before civil unrest took hold and it was relocated).

It’s a big deal, and it’s coming to Glasgow from 9 – 19 November 2020.

What does it have to do with me?

First up, 30,000 delegates and 200 leaders from around the world are expected to arrive in the city, so you can expect some disruption. They’ll be based around the Scottish Events Campus, so security arrangements and travel around that part of the city are likely to be affected.

You can also expect accommodations to be booked up around that time of year, and with Greater Glasgow’s population temporarily growing by 5% (but likely all packed in around the middle), there’ll be a lot more people all competing to be fed and entertained in the city centre. Worth noting if you have any big events during that couple of weeks…

Secondly, each COP comes with an informal fringe, which is an opportunity for the public to get involved.

What is the COP fringe?

Totally self-organised, and separate from the actual summit, COP fringe events are a place for the public to get involved and talk about climate change issues.

From campaign groups and protests to local food-growing organisations and educational activities, it’s a chance for a wide range of people to have a platform.

The Scottish Climate Change Secretary has arranged that the Glasgow Science Centre – just across the river from the SEC – will be a host venue to some of these activities.

The Science Centre won’t be big enough (or just won’t suit) a lot of the activities people want to run across the city, though, and it’s important that everyone with an idea for a fringe event has a space to collaborate and organise.

So who’s organising it, and what will they do?

Over the past few months, a national group has started to self-organise. Representatives from lobbying groups, environment-focused NGOs (think Friends of the Earth), trade unions, climate justice organisations, and local community groups have all entered the mix.

This group doesn’t go by an overall name, but you can think of it as a coalition of UK civil society groups. Broadly, it’s anyone who isn’t part of the country’s official, governmental involvement.

You can read more about them at https://cop26coalition.wordpress.com/

‘We are working in a broad, diverse and inclusive formation to organise ourselves as UK civil society around COP26 and are in the process of establishing UK-level and Scottish-level coordinating groups, with Scottish representation on the UK group and strong communication between the two groups.’

COP26 coalition

How can I help my allotments / GAF get involved?

Short answer – think about whether:

  • your allotment site could open its doors to the community in some way that relates to the challenges of a changing climate, or
  • you or your allotment members could bring your knowledge of small-scale, sustainable food-growing out to the community at some other venue, or
  • you could help GAF coordinate these kinds of activities between sites, or
  • you know of some other food-growing-type group who might like to be involved

Some of the GAF members were invited to the most recent coalition meeting in November – you can read about what happened and decide if you want to get involved.

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COP26 coalition meeting Nov 2019 – a report and a call to arms

On 12 November 2019, Richard, Christine and Scott from the GAF Executive Committee went along to a Scottish meeting of the recently formed COP26 coalition to talk about how we can get involved in Glasgow-based activities.

Over the course of 3 hours, we met representatives from around 40 other organisations with an interest in coordinating local and national events around COP26 in November.

Principles & Structure of the Coalition

The Coalition broadly exists to help coordinate fringe events around COP26 in November. As one attendee put it:

‘we don’t want Friends of the Earth marching through George Square on the same day as Greenpeace because nobody thought to tell each other’

The key principles of the Coalition were agreed to be that:

  • We (the Coalition) want to form one broad, diverse and inclusive coalition to organise UK civil society around COP26
  • The Coalition should represent a range of constituencies including trade unions, direct action networks, climate justice groups, environment and development NGOs, faith groups, students and youth, migrant and racial justice networks, and a liaison to global movements
  • The Coalition should not be dominated by well-resourced groups
  • The Coalition should work in a flexible and open process (particularly in the initial stages) that allows for different levels of access and involvement while keeping everyone informed
  • The Coalition should provide a range of support for international groups.

Lots of discussion followed, and everyone agreed on an organisational structure where a London-based group would head up the UK-wide COP26 response, comprising of reps from a range of working groups:

  • fundraising
  • logistics
  • political strategy
  • international liaison (because people from other countries will want to come and have their voices heard outside this UN event)
  • communications
  • mobilisation (i.e. organising group movements across the city where relevant)

A Scottish equivalent would be formed with a similar structure, and with a representative who then sits on the UK-wide group.

The idea is that attendees at this November meeting (including us, and maybe you!) would essentially organise their own campaigning and climate-awareness-raising activities under the broader organisational efforts of the Coalition.

Where Do Allotments Fit In?

Since 40 organisations will all have very different reasons for existing, we broke up into special interest groups. The three of us from GAF joined the food-growing group, along with a couple of folks from organisations who look at food-growing strategy across the city.

We decided we’d go back to our colleagues across Glasgow’s allotments and look at ways to raise awareness how people can perhaps get involved in food-growing (whether they have an allotment or not!) or perhaps make small changes to improve the sustainability of their lifestyles.

Next Coalition Meeting

On Tuesday 28 January, the Coalition will get together again. If it’s anything like the November meeting, it’ll be a lot of people in a room that can just about hold them and no more! We’ll probably be sending along one or two people to represent GAF, and we’ll report back shortly after.

How Can You Get Involved?

Do you have an idea for an activity on your site?

Could you bring your knowledge out to the community at an official event at the Science Centre in November?

Would you like to help out with coordinating food-growing and food-policy groups across Glasgow?

Let us know or come along to a GAF meeting and we’ll make sure to keep you included.