Student Climate Commissioner's COP26 Blog

As Student Climate Commissioners, we were delighted to attend the first week of COP26 as part of the EAUC delegation. COP26, which took place at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, aimed to galvanise countries to meet the Paris Agreement climate target of keeping average global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, preferably to 1.5 degrees. Participating countries were required to submit Nationally Determined Contributions every five years, with this year’s COP being the first time this was required of them since the Paris Agreement.

Negotiations between countries took place in the heavily policed blue zone, an area which bought together a range of groups, including politicians, intergovernmental organisations, and NGOs, and hosted numerous exhibitions and talks on climate change. This was where those with the power and influence to tackle the climate crisis were walking around, including world leaders, business giants, and high-profile individuals, like David Attenborough.

Opposite the blue zone (and across the river Clyde) was the green zone, an area open to members of the public which attempted to engage the public in the climate discussions. This zone showcased the work of several organisations, hosted various talks and was a place of calm compared to the chaotically busy blue zone. Protesters, including Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement, demanding greater climate commitments were often roaming between the two zones, emphasising public pressure for global initiatives to take tackling the climate crisis seriously.

Here are snapshots of our experiences at COP26.


I was grateful for the opportunity to attend the first week of COP, and at first, I found it to be a chaotic and overwhelming experience full of protesters, police, and regular covid testing. However, I soon found that COP consisted of 20,000 enthusiastic and passionate people most of whom who are dedicated to tackling climate change. Most of the climate discussions took place in the Blue Zone, including the negotiations between parties, which is a huge area that could only be accessed by long queue waits and going through a series of security checks while meeting protesters along the way. As an observer and first time COP-attender, I naively thought that I would be able to watch the negotiations proceed, yet covid restrictions meant that this wasn’t possible and at times it felt like most delegates were very disconnected to these important discussions happening in closed off nearby rooms. This disconnect made it difficult to find suitable avenues to discuss perspectives on the role of the education sector in addressing the climate crisis as well as discuss the EAUCs priorities and the demands set out in the Student Climate Commissioners COY16 student statement. Despite this, hundreds of talks from various organisations took place (including Education Cannot Wait, World Health Organisation and WWF), showcasing commitments made by organisations and countries addressing climate change while discussing a myriad of important issues, including gender inequality, indigenous rights, and the north-south divide. Some of the best talks I attended included the importance of climate education, how pensions are being invested into unsustainable practices, and discussions on sustainable transformations of our food systems (a topic largely missed during negotiations).

Among the insightful events I attended, interesting people I met, and bizarre things I saw (including statue polar bears in life jackets and Leonardo DiCaprio), I have two main highlights. The first was attending the launch of the Department of Education’s sustainability strategy hosted by the Secretary of Education, Nadhim Zahawi. With the sustainability strategy in its draft form and being consulted on, the launch emphasised the commitment of the Department of Education to embedding climate change across the sector and it was great to see an example of a PassivHaus Net Zero classroom. My second highlight was experiencing the strength of the youth voice throughout COP26. Hearing Boris Johnson talk about the importance of listening to youth during the opening ceremony and having a day dedicated to youth and public empowerment emphasised the importance of including youth in climate negotiations. However, the part that stood out most to me was how brilliantly spoken the youth representatives were. I attended numerous talks led by youth representatives, including discussions on food sustainability and climate education, and was impressed by how well youth delegates articulated their points and argued their positions. It was incredibly inspiring and highlighted the power and passion of the youth movement in tackling climate change. Go youth!


Legitimacy in the process of COP requires transparency and inclusivity across stakeholders. For this reason, it is essential that young people can attend and have a platform to engage in meaningful dialogue with those that have the power to implement and enforce change – it is their futures on the line. EAUC offering Student Climate Commissioners places on their delegation is exactly the type of thing that we need to see more of from observers to COP in future years, and I am grateful for the opportunity that we had.

Just as Katie points out, it was the youth delegates that really caught my attention. They painted an accurate picture of where we stand, and where we are headed, and made realistic and concise asks of governments on several key issues around climate change. For education this culminated in a key summit, with Mock COP organising with Youth4Climate and UNESCO amongst others to convene Ministers of Education and Environment from across the world to pledge their intent to embed climate change across education. Connecting students to their local environments, equipping teachers with training and resources to facilitate the delivery of reformed curricula, and developing comprehensive sustainability strategies, were just a few of the actions mentioned by the Ministers. The session gave me hope that we are laying the foundation for students to be able to live in a climate-stressed world.

The summit was also where the UK Department for Education launched their draft Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy. That it is a draft is important, and the ongoing consultation process with sectoral stakeholders – including the EAUC – will mean we can get into the details and hold this process to account. The Department for Education hosted several events, including one on green skills and careers, as well as their announcement of the National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Award that are being developed. Patrizio Bianchi, Italian Minister of Education, put it best – addressing climate change requires that we regenerate our schools. Education is being addressed as an increasingly important issue at COP, and this is a necessary step in the right direction.


So far, the success of COP26 is heavily debated. It has kept climate change on the global political agenda and has fuelled the development of promising new pledges, including the Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which aims to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, and the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

Despite this, current estimates showing that combined, the current Nationally Determined Contributions will only limit global warming to 2.4 degrees, making the Paris Agreement targets seem unlikely to be achieved. Furthermore, the promising commitment to “phasing out” coal use was negotiated at the last minute to ‘phasing down’, while the promised $100 billion support to developing countries to tackle the climate crisis will still not be met for another two years. Although promising progress was made at COP26, success will depend on us scaling ambition and taking concrete steps taken to tackle the climate crisis and make good on those pledges to action.

EAUC have Observer Status with UNFCCC. 

Find out more:
COY16 Student Statement
EAUC's post-COP26 Reflections
Delivered by EAUC