Creative Carbon Scotland’s Guide to Making Plans for COP26

6th August 2020

Creative Carbon Scotland's Guide to Making Plans for COP26 2

Creative Carbon Scotland's Guide to Making Plans for COP26

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the UN’s annual summit on climate change. COP26, taking place in Glasgow 1st-12th November 2021, will be a particularly crucial summit continuing major decision making from COP21 in Paris. It will be the largest international summit the UK has ever hosted and a huge moment for international climate change policy.  

Each COP involves a closed ‘blue zone’ where negotiations take place and country ‘pavilions’ are situated as well as a ‘green zone’ that is open to charities, organisations, businesses, community groups and others, although you still have to go through a formal process and often pay to set up stalls or events here. Beyond this official zone there is usually a huge amount of other activity including alternative spaces, side events, marches and protests, arts installations 

The situation at COP26 in November 2021 is likely to be similar to COP21as discussed in Ben’s blogwith many decisions made ahead of the talks themselves, a huge amount squeezed into a very brief period, large numbers of lobbyists and protesters arriving in Glasgowrivalry between closed-off official COP zones at the Scottish Event Campus and open civil society spaces elsewhere in the city, and, likely, generally chaotic and febrile atmosphere. 

But despite all the madness, the coming of COP26 to Glasgow is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion and an opportunity to step up climate action in Scotland and beyond, an opportunity that arts and culture can play a part in. You can read a history of arts and culture at COPs and lessons we can learn from this here 

Creative Carbon Scotland's Guide to Making Plans for COP26

The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) will be the focal point for COP26 in Glasgow. Image: Canva.

General advice on planning for COP26

  1. Not everything has to take place during COP itself. A common error is to try to organise too much to happen during the two weeks of the COP negotiations themselves. This period will be extremely busy and, likely, chaotic, making it very difficult to get attention. It may be more valuable to organise events in the run-up to or after COP26, taking advantage of increased interest or using it as a talking point. Similarly, it’s important to cover a broad geographical area and not concentrate too much work on Glasgow itself.  
  2. Think beyond just influencing the negotiations. This is tricky and many decisions may have been made ahead of the actual summit itself, but there are plenty of other reasons to make plans around COP26. The talks can be leveraged to improve environmental policy more locally. The presence of the negotiations may encourage new audiences to engage with environmentally conscious work. You may find that colleagues are more open to considering the carbon reduction plans you have been pushing for when COP26 is just around the corner or fresh in their memory. 
  3. Go beyond the usual suspects. The most common criticism of arts and culture engagements with COPs is that they don’t get beyond a relatively small demographic, often either established arts audiences or people who are already environmentally engaged. Try to forge new connections and collaborations or use it as an opportunity to reach out to demographics that tend not to be included in climate action. You should also think about who you want to influence and how. Are you seeking to challenge climate sceptics, or nudge eco-worriers into becoming eco-warriors? These two audiences require very different approaches.  
  4. Offer to support others. As well as producing your own work, arts organisations (especially those based in Glasgow) can be vital for providing a platform. Civil society organisations will be desperate to find space in the city and many of the best locations are arts venues. Visiting international groups, including those from the global south and frontline communities, will also be looking for ways to get their message out, which arts organisations could help facilitate. 
  5. Think long-term. There is a danger that we overemphasise the event of COP26 and don’t see past it. COP26 is just a punctuation mark in an ongoing sentence and should be treated as such. Try to find time to think about how your plans could have long term benefits. Can you use it as an opportunity to embed new green practices into your work? Can you have a lasting impact on your local community? Can you develop relationships that will persist beyond November 2021?  
Creative Carbon Scotland's Guide to Making Plans for COP26 1

The negotiations themselves may look something like this. Image credit: UNclimatechange Flickr.

Useful resources and organisations

Helpful starting points:

  • Read about Creative Carbon Scotland’s Climate Beacons for COP26 project
  • The UK government’s COP26 website gives key information on the conference’s goals and organisation
  • Climate Fringe is a website created by Stop Climate Chaos Scotland that provides listings for events being organised in the lead-up to and during COP as well as suggestions for ways to get involved, information, and blogs. 
  • #arts4cop26 is a Facebook page made by Creative Carbon Scotland and ecoartscotland for people interested in the roles of arts and culture in and around COPs, used for discussion and promoting work. 
  • The COP26 Coalition is the largest collection of civil society groups organising for COP26. It includes a ‘Culture’ working group that is open for anyone to join. You can follow them on social media or visit their COP26Coalition website
  • Our History of Arts and Culture at COPs resource gives a rundown of what has happened in the past and lessons that we can learn from them.  
  • Get Ready Glasgow is a resource by Glasgow City Council that provides up-to-date information on practical arrangements for COP26 in the city.

Other arts-and-culture-based organising and events taking place around COP26: 

  • The Climate Fringe are planning a number of artistic contributions including exhibiting work, providing space for creatives during COP26, and organising ‘artivist’ outdoor protests
  • Climate Challenge: 1.5 Degrees Films is a project by Film Access Scotland supporting people to make 1.5 minute long films about climate change to be screened in and around COP26
  • Glasgow Science Centre are holding a major public engagement programme leading up to COP26 entitled ‘Our World Our Impact
  • The Dear Green Bothy is a programme of free public events and activities run by Glasgow University’s College of Arts demonstrating the vital role played by the arts and humanities in understanding and addressing climate emergency.
  • Climate Change Creative is a virtual gallery and online artivist resource, to facilitate the sharing of original artwork within the public domain which raises climate change awareness, including, but not limited to paintings, banners & placards.
  • Ocean ARTic is a project bringing together artists and marine scientists for collaboration around COP26
  • What the COP? is a project from Take One Action Film Festival supporting community groups to host screenings of films that engage with climate justice issues
  • Cultura Panetaria is an initiative bringing together arts and environmental campaigners in Chile and South America and seeking to forge connections in Scotland.
  • Our Living Soil is a programme of arts and science events planned to link COP26 with the World Congress of Soil Scientists, which will also take place in Glasgow.

You can read notes from previous COP26 discussion events we have organised: 

And some useful general resources on our website and elsewhere: 

Green Tease: COP Tales and Cocktails 1

Attendees at a COP26 discussion event we held in December 2019. Image: Creative Carbon Scotland.

Greening your events

It’s important to make sure that anything programmed in relation to COP26 is also environmentally sustainable in character. You can use our Green Tease DIY Handbook and Green Arts Initiative practical guidance for advice on how to green your event, but here are some top tips:  

  • Travel: Encourage audiences, participants, and staff to use active travel or public transport to get to your events. This can be as simple as getting people to state what form of travel they are going to when booking, subtly encouraging people to consider this, or deliberately reaching out to local audiences. You can also use tools like to calculate your own travel emissions. Consider whether to run your event online or live-stream it to avoid people having to travel long distances to attend.  
  • Waste: Consider replacing paper flyers with online advertising. Ensure that any recyclable waste that results from your event is properly sorted. If you are catering, try to use reusable crockery. Visit our Guide to Waste for more ideas.  
  • PartnersGet the support of venue managers and co-organisers. This could be an opportunity to encourage partners to switch to more sustainable practices such as reducing their energy usage. COPs are infamous greenwashing opportunities, so be careful who you work with or accept sponsorship from. Creative Carbon Scotland is Oil Sponsorship Free and we encourage others to do the same.  
  • ProcurementTry to use local suppliers for materials and catering to reduce carbon emissions from your supply chain. This could be an opportunity to work with a local co-operative or other community organisation and support their work. You can also visit our Suppliers Database for some suggestions. 
  • Accessibility: Ensure that your efforts to green your event are fair and equal. For example, people with physical disabilities may need to use private transport in order to attend your event. There’s some advice about this in our Guide to Climate Justice 

If you have any further questions or suggestions about COP26, please get in touch with Lewis Coenen-Rowe 

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