The COP26 survival guide: 8 tips for getting the most out of the summit

Attending COP26 and wondering what footwear to pack? Want to know where to find the best chocolate and where to get the inside track on what's on the day's agenda? ENDS spoke to attendees of previous climate talks to find out

COP26 preparations are underway in Glasgow. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

WATCH ON DEMAND: COP26: The agenda, opportunities and how to get the most out of it

In less than two weeks’ time, the crucial COP26 climate summit will kick off in Glasgow, with thousands of delegates expected to attend. In advance of the crunch talks, ENDS Report this week hosted a webinar and gathered expert insights on what to expect at the summit. Here are our panel’s top tips:

1 Pack comfy shoes and bring layers... and plenty of snacks

“On a very practical and personal level, wear comfortable shoes,” says Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead. “The venues are huge and you will walk miles every day. Heels? Forget it!” 

Kramer advises delegates to bring layers, “because you never know how hot or cold any individual room will be – things like pashminas, particularly for women, are brilliant”. 

Another practical tip from Kramer is to make sure you don’t forget to bring snacks to the event. “You may be running around so much that you don't have time for the long queues around the food stalls, so always make sure that you've got something healthy that you can throw down your throat as you're running around to the next meeting,” she says.

2 Go on a reconnaissance mission early on

COP26 activity will be largely split across two Glasgow sites: the "Blue Zone", the UN-managed space at the Scottish Event Campus which will host the international negotiations, and the "Green Zone" at the Glasgow Science Centre, which is hosted by the UK government, where a programme of events, workshops, talks and exhibitions will take place.

Gareth Redmond-King, COP26 lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), says that while COP26’s Green Zone programme appears well organised and is available in advance of the summit, it can be much harder to figure out what’s going on in the Blue Zone. He recommends a “sort of reconnaissance job early on to work out what's going on in which pavilions”. “Just gather that up early and work out where you want to go,” he advises. 

3 Start the day early to get oriented 

Martin Baxter, director of policy and external affairs at the Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), says that in the Blue Zone at 8am every morning the International Chamber of Commerce convenes “political bingo” sessions, where businesses and NGOs can come together to find out what has happened in the previous days of negotiations, and share information on what’s coming up. “So get up early, depending on where you’re staying overnight,” he advises. “I’ve found that really useful.” 

The ECIU’s Redmond-King, meanwhile, says there is another benefit to getting to the talks early in day – the Trillion Trees campaign are “quite often at the doors early in the morning handing out the most delicious chocolates”.

4 Choose a small number of issues to focus on 

The COP is a “tremendously complex” process, says Kramer, and with five workstreams, each with at least 20 agenda items to themselves, “trying to keep on top of all the information that’s coming out of the process is really difficult”, she adds. Therefore, it makes sense to choose one or two issues to focus on, or you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed, Kramer suggests.

5 Look out for useful daily updates to help you keep up to speed

Kramer and Dr Alison Doig, a climate consultant and coordinator of the Health and Climate Network, both recommend Climate Action Network’s daily ECO newsletter as a good means of keeping up to speed. It’s written in an accessible way, says Doig, highlighting the critical issues today and tomorrow. Its tone is also “cutting”, she adds, with a daily feature highlighting the “fossil of day” – the country that has done the most to undermine negotiations.

Redmond-King, meanwhile, says he has found daily updates provided by the International Institute for Economic Development (IIED) to be “immensely useful”. The ECIU, he says, will be publishing daily updates on what went on the day before and what's coming up, as well as briefings and explainers.

ENDS Report and sister title ENDS Europe will have reporters at the event too, providing coverage of all the key developments.

6 Listen out for different perspectives

“The real opportunity is to go and hear perspectives from those that you don't normally hear from,” says IEMA’s Baxter. “That’s the really rich opportunity that the COP brings and having that in the UK is absolutely fantastic.” He continues: “For me it's expanding my understanding and appreciation of different facets of tackling climate change and responding to a changing climate, and just meeting people from different parts of the world is great.” 

Redmond-King adds that there are “fascinating, amazing powerful voices to hear and people to meet”. “I've only been to the last couple of COPs, but even over those I've met indigenous peoples from parts of the world I will never be lucky enough to go to, and union leaders from one side of the world who are working with coal miners on the other side of the world,” he says.

7 Give confidence to negotiators

Signe Norberg, head of public affairs and communications at the Aldersgate Group, says that civil society and business actors have a very important role to play at the summit in terms of giving negotiators the confidence they need to take ambitious action. “If you're organising events or taking part in them, then make sure... that you [have] looked at ways that you can give confidence to negotiators in key markets, so that they can take ambitious action and be ambitious when it comes to tackling climate change,” she says.

Norberg also advises delegates to consider before attending what their “unique selling point is”. Consider “what is your perspective that you can contribute to the events and discussions that are taking place”, she advises.

8 Check out what’s going on outside of the Blue and Green zones

Doig says that if you can’t access the summit’s Blue and Green zones, the World Health Organization is holding a health and climate conference on the middle Saturday at Glasgow Caledonian University, which will look at how food, energy and transport can benefit health as well as climate.

Doig says visitors should look out for the People’s Summit, being run by the COP26 Coalition, which will look at social justice and climate issues, and give delegates the opportunity to hear different points of view.

WATCH ON DEMAND: Click here to sign up to watch ENDS Report’s free webinar COP26: The agenda, opportunities and how to get the most out of it