COP in the UK

Though not really a matter for negotiators, this week it was announced that the U.K. will pick up the UNFCCC mantle after Chile’s COP25 by hosting COP26 from 9th – 20th November 2020. Initially, Italy had also wanted to host, while there was a persistent claim from Turkey that they too wished to have the dubious honour of spending millions of euros to welcome 40,000 people for a fortnight of negotiations.

The country which hosts the summit has significant power in shaping the agenda and influencing the outcome—there is no such thing as a neutral host—and U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (currently a contender in the Tory Party leadership race) clearly views COP26 as an opportunity to boost his own brand and restore some diplomatic prestige to the U.K. in the aftermath of a rough few years of Brexit carry-on.

But hosting the summit is also a major deal for the U.K. climate justice movement—recently rejuvenated by Extinction Rebellion’s direct action tactics, Fridays For Futures/School Strike’s clear moral message, and both the U.K. and Global Green New Deal’s clarity of vision.

The opportunity is there – though by no means an easy one to take – to build the power of the UK climate justice movement. This has little-to-nothing to do with the technical process inside the COP and everything to do with the process leading up to hosting, the mobilizations, the narrative that gets shaped etc.

UK movements would do well to turn to previous COP host nations for examples of how, and how not, to make best use of the opportunity. It is a complicated affair.

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