COP26: Public needs to have their say about climate change or big polluters will continue to get away with it – Ian Murray MP

There is so much riding on the success of COP26 and I have no doubt that, with the political will, we can put the world on a path to aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the Earth’s warming.

By Ian Murray
Thursday, 4th November 2021, 4:55 am

The largest polluters must be the first to change. We must pressure those who are doing the most damage to our environment, protect our biodiversity and natural habitats, and take the steps to transition to a cleaner future.

As world leaders gathered in Glasgow, my constituents in Edinburgh South were drawing up a citizen’s climate manifesto of the issues that matter most to them and what climate change means to them.

The inaccessibility of climate education and dialogue is one element of the global inaction on climate change.

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Added to this, in the Global North, we remain relatively sheltered from the worst impacts of climate change, so it is no surprise that the debate can seem intangible to ordinary people in the UK.

I’m immensely proud to have been able to facilitate discussions between climate experts, local and national stakeholders, and the people of Edinburgh South.

If local people aren’t engaged in discussions on climate change, the issue simply can’t be tackled. We must take the public with us and ask them for their contribution to the cause.

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Boris Johnson and broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough speak with school children during the launch of the COP26 climate summit last year (Picture: Chris J Ratcliffe/WPA pool/Getty Images)

Local communities are integral to tackling climate change and we must not underestimate the power of small groups of committed individuals to make a difference.

It’s up to politicians to empower these communities and make sure everyone feels like they have a voice in the climate debate and a role in tackling the problem.

As Scottish social activist Patrick Geddes once said, “think global, act local”.

I have spoken to people who have little idea what goes on at COP26, and it is up to people like me, the representatives and lawmakers, to bridge that gap between high-level decision-making and people’s everyday lives.

It’s an injustice that citizens and communities will have very little say in the negotiations at COP26 as they will be required to fundamentally change their lives as a result.

The more people that we can engage on this issue, the more we can hold our leaders to account and the more we can demand of governments and companies across the world.

By no means should the onus of tackling this emergency be on the people who have had the least to do with its onset, but unless they are engaged, the more the big polluters get away with.

It’s not only heart-warming, but inspiring to see our younger generations so mobilised by this issue.

I recently visited a local primary school to chat to the children there about COP26 and their climate concerns. I was blown away by the level of education and engagement.

They have the most to lose from the pollutants and inaction of older generations and we should be thinking of them and leading by example.

We’ve heard a lot this week about climate targets but they remain just targets until proper action is taken.

The message is clear, we must work together to achieve climate justice – words won’t save our planet, action will.

Let’s hope Glasgow becomes the by-word for change.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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