COP26 kicked off in Glasgow on Monday 1st November. Boris Johnson is hosting the summit and world leaders jetted into Scotland from all around the world – ironic right? We asked OggaDoon founder and CEO Caroline Macdonald her thoughts ahead on the first day of the summit on the need, relevance, and issues surrounding COP26 – dubbed the last chance to tackle the climate crisis.
Among other sectors, OggaDoon specialises in green marketing. This positions us, especially our CEO Caroline to talk about all things COP26. As well as running OggaDoon, Caroline was Director of Big Green Week and is chair of the Low Carbon Industries Group for the West of England Local Enterprise Partnerships. She was also on the NFWI Public Affairs Committee 2007-2011 championing green and social issues for women.
OggaDoon intern, Tim Humphreys sat down with Caroline to ask her about her opinions on all things COP26.
What resolutions would you like to see from COP26?
I would like to see resolutions that actually mean something to everyday life. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals don’t really mean much to the average person on the street. It would be great to have resolutions that address actions on actual real-world events that have happened which people can recognise; whether that’s extreme weather situations, supply-chain challenges or other recognisable issues. Policies need to be way more dressed up, rather than being out of worldly aspirations. COP26 attendees also need to address the finance of these resolutions. Is change going to come from community finance, or financially supported by the private or the public sectors? Financing any resolutions is the key part of this summit.
Should COP26 be happening with limitations of smaller countries to travel due to COVID restrictions? 1/3 of Pacific Island countries are unable to travel, including Fiji.
COP26 does need to happen because if it doesn’t, the climate crisis is not receiving the global exposure or the spotlight that is necessary for action. I think there should be sympathetic arrangements made for those countries who cannot travel. In fact, the organisers need to look at the carbon costs of all travel compared to the carbon cost of hosting the conference digitally. There are options there for making this climate summit more sustainable, green and climate friendly.
Is it too little too late?
It’s always been too little too late. When I was growing up, I did environmental science at school and even then, we had climate change warnings – this was back in the 80’s. Then we were on a mass consumption spearhead and when you looked at the global economies, we were just way too materialistic and the warnings were there and still are now. Over-consumption by the richest nations is still the case in 2021.
Does the format of pledges at a summit like this work?
Only if they are backed by actions and are evidence-based.
Do you think they often are?
I think there is deliberate vagueness and obscuring.
We have recently seen the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William’s Earthshot Environment Award. What are your views regarding the responsibilities of the public vs private sectors?
Where you have public spotlight and leadership, then the private sectors will follow.
So, it is the responsibility of states to lead the way, not the private sector?
I think it is the responsibility of both. Paul Polman, the ex-CEO of Unilever did an awful lot in the private sector to change Unilever’s approach to sustainability and there are clearly others leading the way in the business sector. However, it takes the brave and courageous leaders in the private sector to act in a climate focussed way, as the business leaders tend to have to bow to shareholders and quarterly profit warnings. I also think that the private sector should be speaking to the community sector as to how green business adaptations should materialise. Often it is the ‘public figure heads’ who open up the discussions and then everyone else says – ‘yeah, I want a bit of that action or pay’. Unfortunately in reality, the public sector tends to lead with either leadership or policy and then the private sector tends to follow but they are more akin to the commercial needs which often do not support the planet.
What are your thoughts on President Putin and President Xi Jingping not attending COP26?
Not surprised. They are responsible for some of the worst performances in cutting emissions. I mean China does have a relatively ambitious green policy, though Russia is clouded in mystery, and it doesn’t serve them to attend.
Do you think the non-state elected leaders are more important than the State elected leaders? For example, Ursula Von Der Leyen, Greta Thunberg, the Queen, UN Security General António Guterres and David Attenborough are all attending.
Well, everybody loves David Attenborough, so if he is attending, then it will get the public’s attention. Some of these figures are well liked, or in some cases disliked – Greta Thunberg is the recipient of praise and contempt alike. Publicly liked figures tend to be able to bring an extra star status to get others in society to understand the complexities and bureaucratic nature of these political summits and that’s a positive of their presence. Unfortunately, politically elected figures are quite divisive, therefore, it is quite hard to get resolutions that are impactful, but others can help do that – which is a further productive impact from them attending.
Should every single country have an equal responsibility, or should the early industrialised countries be doing comparatively more?
The responsibility should be regarding carbon emissions and carbon performance of every country. The higher polluting countries should have more sanctions either imposed against them or greater sanctions on the high carbon emitting sectors in their country to reduce emissions.
Christian and Seek leaders are travelling to the conference. Is there much of a place for religious leaders to push greater climatic action?
I suspect these leaders are quite impactful in the nations where religion is critical, so anybody who has any notable leadership should be there; irrespective of whether they have political, commercial, judicial or religious leadership.
What would you say to those who claim that the West has gone through their own industrial revolution and is a massive part for the UK getting to the socio-economic position that we find ourselves in now as ‘Global Britain’. Countries like China are producing a lot of products and in turn a lot of CO2 and some countries in Africa are producing a lot of raw materials including mining natural resources which are being sold on the international market. Where we emitted a lot of carbon dioxide and destroyed our environment; who are we to stand in the way of developing nations doing the same and potentially hindering their development?
So, you have to look at when the industrial revolution happened and compare it with consumerism. The UK’s industrial revolution wasn’t in the Victorian times, it was before then, when people moved from agriculture-based employment to mining – which did happen a substantial time ago. The challenge we have now is the rise of consumerism and ‘stuff’ that people want, or perceive, they want. Whether that’s at home, work, or to function in their daily lives.
Society needs to champion and prioritise the reduction of consumerism – and make better consumer decisions and choices. One key social focus is to stop inbuilt obsolescence of goods. For example, a smart phone battery only has a certain life – and we need to be looking at how the life of a phone can be extended so the phone doesn’t get traded in after a couple of years. If a part of the device breaks, can it be replaced and can the whole phone be improved rather than buying a new one. With washing machines they’ve also got planned-in obsolescence – and this increases the wastage of mined raw materials, including Lithium. The concept of in-build obsolescence has come in over-time to increase the extent of consumerism. Certainly, in this country we want to purchase and not rent; though renting has better climatic impacts than purchasing so many consumer goods.
This whole sector has heightened the mining of raw materials and production to satisfy the consumerist mentality of western societies. Regarding the specifics of the mining sector, in some African nations, this is a subject I don’t know enough about to comment on, but one is aware that the impact of climate change is greatest in the developing nations. Additionally, some of the solutions for reducing the comparatively lesser impacts of climate change destruction from these countries are some of the easier challenges to address. The relationship between government and sustainability investment in developing nations – which is complex – is an area where a greater focus is needed. The industrial revolution is a very macro topic and we do need the macro actions but we also need the micro changes – and that comes down to us.
Can we meet the 1.5° target?
Not as we currently are, there has to be fundamental policy change.
Is it ok for large companies to make climate protection changes only for positive PR?
Clearly not. I have been dealing with ‘green-wash’ for most of my career. Companies can do that, but they will probably find their supply chain gets rocked with some kind of climatic crisis – whether that is a mudslide somewhere, rising water levels or those sorts of impacts. The private sector will soon find that they can’t get the labour or the parts – it’s just a non-starter if they think they can just make these changes exclusively for PR. People find out – there’s a lot of evidence out there as to how sustainable a company really is.
And the final question: The Green Party is looking to get their second Parliamentary seat and their target constituency is Bristol West. Do you think they can win this seat and would you like to see more Green MP’s in Parliament?
The problem for the party is going from local government to national government. The Green Party are seen to be quite effective locally, but they don’t seem to have that cohesion on a national basis for the UK-wide political arena. Potentially, they may not have the money behind them – but locally they can make a big difference. As more cities and local governments take the climate change agenda away from the national scene and are declaring climate emergencies at the city level – that’s where the Green Party can be very effective. What they need to do is get the finance sector a little bit more in tune with what they want to do and get the city markets working on a green agenda.
If you would like to interview Caroline, the CEO and founder of OggaDoon, you can email her at email@example.com