When COP26 ends, the fight will go on

FORUM: ‘For sure… the language of leadership and the framing of the challenge we face has moved on and up…’ argues Sam Baker

Thursday, 4th November 2021 — By Sam Baker

Sam Baker

Sam Baker, speaking from Glasgow during the UN’s COP26 conference

OUR Walk2COP26 left Camden on October 6 to the accompaniment of a traveller’s blessing, guitar-playing, two dinosaurs and community fridge carrots.

Twenty-six days later, we arrived in Glasgow having walked on average 20 miles per day for 26 days continuously.

We’ve suffered shin splints, blisters, we’ve run away from cows, sunk under sphagnum moss, and experienced the best and worst of this country’s weather.

The reason to do this was to drive engagement on climate action and we have held that close as we have progressed north.

We held five town hall-style events, visited schools and environmental projects, and had innumerable conversations on the way.

We have sought to highlight the great and inspiring stories we have heard across social and sometimes broadcast media. I, and I know each of my fellow walkers, have been profoundly moved by our experience.

We’ve been welcomed, inspired, helped, supported, at every step both on the route and off it, by family and friends but also by total strangers.

We’ve seen the power and importance of local action, felt the focus and intensity of young people, and seen how critical connections are in this fight that we all now face.

What have we achieved?

The most I hope for is that we have helped forge connections that didn’t exist, catalysed those who want to get involved but don’t know how to, and helped in a small way to bring the climate emergency and the action required into the centre of conversations.

Nation-state level action is critical and, of course, central to Glasgow; but this needs to be paired with local action and we have encountered plenty of stories that give us hope.

Cop26 has never been far from our minds, and we have frequently talked to, and listened to others talk to, hopes and fears for COP.

Glasgow seems strangely quiet with residents and students apparently advised to stay away, and a large and visible police presence. This is somewhat in contrast to the extensive global media coverage.

I think it’s probably now clear that this won’t be a seminal point in history – either as a major fail or as a Paris Agreement-style success – but one thing for sure, the language of leadership and the framing of the challenge we face has moved on and up. May this be a precursor to the major change we need.

At 4.30pm Wednesday we hold our last event, bringing together all the different epic journeys we have encountered (cyclists, walkers, sailors, artists, activists all) at the Strath Union.

But, of course, the need for engagement lives on. This is a challenge we cannot afford to fail to confront. When Cop26 ends, the fight goes on.

• Sam Baker is a member of the team of people who left Kentish Town two weeks ago to raise awareness of the climate emergency on their way to Scotland.

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