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10th Anniversary Story: 2021

October 2022 by Lucia Simmons

Throughout our 10th Anniversary year, we’ve been sharing 10 stories for the 10 years of Carbon Literacy; one story for each year, shared once per month, in the 10 months leading up to the official anniversary date in October.

Concluding this series, story number ten brings us to 2021, when COP26 provided the perfect opportunity to amplify Carbon Literacy and the critical role it plays in accelerating action necessary to tackle climate change.

The significance of COP26

COP26, which took place between 31st October and 13th November 2021, was the 26th annual United Nations (UN) climate conference, or ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP). As climate conferences go, this one was particularly significant on three scales:

  • Globally: Having been delayed a year due to Covid-19, COP26 marked the five-year point at which the Paris Agreement, signed at COP21 in 2015, needed to be revised. Leaders from around the world were to report on progress made since the Paris Agreement, allowing nations to present their updated plans to reduce emissions.
  • Nationally: The UK was granted the annual ‘presidency’ of COP (in partnership with Italy), which gave the UK a significant say in setting the agenda and ambitions. Held in Glasgow, Scotland, COP26 presented an important opportunity for the UK to demonstrate how it is tackling climate change and shifting towards a lower carbon and more inclusive society.
  • Organisationally: The Carbon Literacy Project was recognised as a TAP100 by the UN at COP21. Thus, the five-year review period also presented an opportunity to demonstrate how Carbon Literacy remains one of the top 100 responses the world has to tackle climate change.

We wanted to utilise COP26 to illustrate the collective breadth, vision and application of Carbon Literacy by doing what we do – educating people to be Carbon Literate in as many different settings as possible – and showing the impact and effectiveness this has in creating a low-carbon culture for all. So, we created a jam-packed schedule of activities to do just that.

Carbon Literacy Action Day

The first Carbon Literacy Action Day was staged on Day One of COP26 to set the climate negotiations off to a positive and action-led start. The aim was for the largest-ever number of people to complete their days’ worth of Carbon Literacy training to become certified as Carbon Literate.

We were live throughout the day with a drop-in webinar, where we were joined by representatives from 16 different organisations, ranging across 11 sectors, who shared the impact of Carbon Literacy in their own organisations. Many of those were also delivering training as part of the Action Day, and we concluded the day with a virtual tour of some of those sessions to share a snapshot of the action pledged as a result.

In total, 502 individuals were certified as Carbon Literate, and thus 1,004 actions were pledged to tackle climate change, as a result of the first Action Day. 29 organisations and trainers took part, delivering 35 unique Carbon Literacy courses across 7 nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Guatemala and Australia) and 14 sectors of society.

You can read more about the outcomes of the first Action Day here.

Carbon Literacy Sector Focus Days

The Action Day was followed by a series of Sector Focus Days, scheduled to coincide with the daily themes of the two-week COP26 presidency programme. The aim was to showcase how Carbon Literacy was already driving low-carbon action across many sectors in the UK. This included sectors for which there was already (or, at the time, plans were underway for) a Carbon Literacy Sector Toolkit, as well as a number of sectors where Carbon Literacy was making an impact even without a toolkit.

The Sector Focus Days included:

You can catch up with these Sector Focus Days on our YouTube channel by clicking the name of the relevant sector above.

Carbon Literacy at COP26 in Glasgow

Many of our team were also able to attend COP26 in person in Glasgow and champion Carbon Literacy on the ground. As The Carbon Literacy Project was granted official Observer status, a number of our team sat in on the negotiations in the Blue Zone, while others spent time experiencing the events and exhibitions the Green Zone had to offer. For all of us, it was an illuminating opportunity to meet other people and organisations with similar missions to ours.

You can read more of our reflections on COP26, regarding our experiences and the overall outcomes of the negotiations, here.

A lasting impact

Overall, our activities surrounding COP26 had a lasting positive impact in amplifying Carbon Literacy, both in the UK and globally. COP26 refocused (albeit all too briefly) the national and global spotlight on climate change and the need for wide-scale climate action, providing an unparalleled opportunity to present Carbon Literacy as the impactful solution it is.

In the year since COP26, an astounding 20,000 further citizens have been certified as Carbon Literate. The development and adoption of new and existing Carbon Literacy Sector Toolkits have accelerated dramatically, and more organisations are recognising the value of, and actively delivering, Carbon Literacy than ever before.

As COP27 and our second annual Carbon Literacy Action Day approaches, we can only hope for similar outcomes. With many of the promises made at the COP26 negotiations still not met, a livable world for future generations quite literally depends on it.

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