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COP26 – A very personal view

Jake is Co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) and MD at Media Bounty, shares his experience of COP26.

Jake Dubbins, Co-Chair of the Conscious Advertising Network and Media Bounty

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The last week has been the most overwhelming, humbling and emotional week of my professional life.

I have spent the week at COP26 in Glasgow and had the honour of attending the ‘blue zone’ every day. For the uninitiated, the blue zone is a giant site at the SEC and is a heady mixture of negotiating rooms, vast plenaries, media zones and a gargantuan trade show.

The coming together of people from all over the world to attempt to solve this existential crisis of our own making is, in one sense, incredibly hopeful. The scale of the meeting is difficult to comprehend. In just 5 days we spent time with an enormously diverse group of people;  ministers from Jamaica and Egypt, ex-presidents Mary Robinson and Mohamed Nasheed, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, Ambassador Rattray, Fairtrade farmers from Paraguay and Cote D’Ivoire, activists group Avaaz, climate experts like Baroness Bryony Worthington and Mark Lynas, business leaders like Unilever’s ex CEO Paul Polman, YouYube’s Pedro Pina and SSE’s Suzie Rook and finance leaders like Mark Carney.

This is just a small snapshot of the behemoth that is COP26.

You would have thought that the coming together of all these talented people would mean that we would be on track to solve the climate crisis. But the fact of the matter is that this is the 26th COP. We have failed to solve it in all previous 25 COPs.

The hundreds of thousands of protestors led by activists Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, Sumak Helena Gualinga of Ecuador and hundreds of Amazonian youth from Brazil and Ecuador are right. Young people are being betrayed.

The fact is that, as it stands, we are nowhere near on target to meet the Paris Agreement. According to available National Determined Contributions (NDCs) of all 193 parties taken together we are on track for an INCREASE of 13.7% in global Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) by 2030. The IPCC has estimated that limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5 degrees requires a reduction of CO2 emissions of 45% in 2030 or a 25% reduction by 2030 to limit warming to 2 degrees.

The people that have contributed the least to climate change are on the front lines of the effects of the climate crisis caused by a handful of the biggest polluting countries. In the day to day of our working lives in advertising, this is very easy to block out. Out of sight and out of mind

Jake Dubbins, Co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) and MD at Media Bounty

This is what makes the whole of COP26 so emotional. I am not ashamed to admit that in the first couple of days I spent a good proportion of the time on the verge of tears. The people that have contributed the least to climate change are on the front lines of the effects of the climate crisis caused by a handful of the biggest polluting countries. In the day to day of our working lives in advertising, this is very easy to block out. Out of sight and out of mind.

But when you meet these people and listen to their stories the effect is exceptionally powerful.

Kenyan climate activist, Elizabeth Wathuti, asked world leaders to ‘open their hearts, our animals and people are dying and rivers are drying up’

Brazilian indigenous activist Txai Surui’s people have been living in the Amazon rainforest for at least 6,000 years. She told us; ‘The animals are disappearing. The rivers are dying. And our plants don’t flower like they did before. The earth is speaking. She tells us that we have no more time.’ Shatteringly she also tells us about how a land defender, a friend she had since she was a child, was murdered for protecting the forest.

We heard from the Jamaican delegation at the Alliance for Small Island States talking about the injustices of covid and of climate. In developed countries 70% of populations have had at least one dose of a vaccine. The figure in the developing world? A mere 3%. The injustice is stark. The same goes for climate. A representative from Antigua and Barbuda spoke about families displaced by Hurricane Irma living in cramped housing with other families.

Some in the British media continue to dismiss these sorts of stories as ‘climate alarmism’. There is a form of narrative colonialism that infects part of the British media. Dismiss the hopes and dreams of people living in foreign lands in the belief that either the crisis is not as serious as the scientists say or that some clever Englishman is going to come and save us all

Jake Dubbins, Co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) and MD at Media Bounty

Benjamin Francklin Kouame, a Cocoa Farmer from Cote D’Ivoire and chair of Fairtrade International Africa speaking at a Fairtrade event said ‘The rains do not come. When they do come they destroy everything we have built.’

Andres Gonzalez, a sugar cane farmer from Paraguay told us; ‘Weather events are so unpredictable. People are losing their houses, kids cannot study, families are not able to afford 3 meals. We had 1/2 kilo hail that destroyed our crops.’

We heard the same thing from farmers all over the world. Young people do not want to go into farming. They are watching the effects of  the climate crisis  and don’t want to do it. Who will produce food?

Some in the British media continue to dismiss these sorts of stories as ‘climate alarmism’. There is a form of narrative colonialism that infects part of the British media. Dismiss the hopes and dreams of people living in foreign lands in the belief that either the crisis is not as serious as the scientists say or that some clever Englishman is going to come and save us all. So keep calm and carry on. I genuinely wonder if the pundits that opine on our televisions, in our newspapers and on social media have ever actually spoken to communities on the front line?

Well, I can tell you, these stories are very real. They are terrifying. They make you cry.

They are stories no longer confined to far away lands. They are now coming to our doorstep.

As Paraguayan farmer Andres Gonzalez said; ‘We have had wars for oil, for land. Imagine the wars if people are fighting for food.’

We are currently only at 1.1 degrees and these are the stories from the front lines. We are not even close to being on track for 2 degrees let alone 1.5. What are the stories we will hear and tell ourselves as we go further into the unknown.

This is not a drill. This is code red. The time for action on COP26 is now.

Guest Author

Jake Dubbins, Co-Chair of the Conscious Advertising Network and Media Bounty

About

Jake is Co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), a cross industry group that believe that the ethics must now catch up with the technology of modern advertising. As well as being Co-founder and managing director of Media Bounty, a creative social media agency with a conscience. Advising clients as diverse as Bodyform, method, ecover and The Meatless Farm on using social to drive long-term brand growth. Jake is a passionate advocate of business as driver of social good. Media Bounty has funded the purchase of nearly 700 acres of critically threatened habitat through World Land Trust and the agency team volunteer for environmental, homeless and social cohesion charities.

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