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Audio Transcript: Ask the Experts with Michael Mehling

The text below is the transcript from the 'Ask the Experts with Michael Mehling' video.

Welcome to this introductory video to the Connect with Climate Change series, our virtual exchange to share ideas and inspire action in the lead up to the all important UN climate summit COP 26. This will be coming to Glasgow from the 1st to the 12th of November in 2021.

ScottishPower together with Strathclyde University and the University of Glasgow, will be hosting a series where we will be looking at a range of climate change issues, from finance to consumption, energy transition and more.

As Principal Partner of COP26, we at ScottishPower want to bring about real time discussion and provide a platform for hearing different viewpoints. We hope this will raise awareness to climate change inspiring meaningful action at COP26.

I’m delighted to be joined today by Michael Mehling, who will be providing us with insight in to what to expect from COP26 and the key role it plays in fighting climate change.

And so, moving on to COP26 for those who might not be aware it’s the 26th annual climate summit hosted by the United Nations on climate change and it’s the biggest gathering of heads of state and government to discuss one single topic. Michael can you describe to us the fundamental underpinnings of a COP and what is needed to make it successful and how it’s managed?

Sure, so COP stands for conference of the parties and with parties we mean the countries that have signed up and are participants if you like under the united nations framework convention of climate change. That’s a legal agreement that was adopted almost 30 years ago in 1992 and it sets out the basic principles, procedures and objectives of international climate cooperation.

That means how countries work together to deal with this global challenge of climate change simply because no individual country can solve the problem on its own. All countries have to be part of the solution and so they come together once a year at these conferences of the parties, which is the sort of highest decision making body under the UNFCCC, under that treaty and discuss agenda items related to ongoing climate cooperation and adopt decisions that guide climate action going forward.

So, what we call the COP presidents, in this case it will be the UK government and in order to get 199+ countries to agree on issues and to agree on a path forward, it takes diplomatic finesse and so I think the UK government will be leveraging its many decades, centuries in fact of diplomatic prowess to steer countries in the right direction and have a successful COP26.

Can you tell us a little bit about the background to the discussions that will take place this year at Glasgow COP26 and some of the biggest achievements that the United Nations has been able to deliver through these annual events in previous year?

Several COPs have been really important, if you think of the Kyoto COP in 1997 which began the Kyoto protocol, or the Copenhagen COP in 2009 which resulted in the Copenhagen accord and a number of really important decisions or finally and the one that people most probably remember COP21, in 2015 in Paris, which resulted in the Paris agreement.

Now COP26 will not result in a new agreement, we have the Paris agreement after all but there is some important issue areas that have to be talked about and hopefully decisions reached or at least progress made and one of the most important ones is collective ambition on climate change. What do the efforts, the pledges of individual countries add up to in terms of dealing with this global problem and so that’s what we’re really looking at.

And, so we know that COP26 this year is already very different to other COPs in that it’s been delayed by a year because of the COVID 19 pandemic and it will now be delivered in the context of a growing momentum for a green sustainable recovery from the pandemic. Do you think this will have an impact on societal and behavioural changes that can curve carbon emissions and mitigate climate change and if so, how will this make COP different to previous years?

The pandemic has created awareness of a number of things, first of all, you know it’s enabled all of us to see that certain behavioural patterns, certain activities that we consider to be perfectly normal and unavoidable may no longer really be that necessary, post pandemic.

I think you know, business trip across the globe which I’ve…to my y ou know I can say I have done many times to deliver a 15 minute presentation and then travelling all the way back is really perhaps not something that we want to resume, once travel goes back to normal, but also another very important issue and you mentioned that is the fact that economies around the world are struggling and governments around the world are taking well are taking steps to revive economic activity to avoid further worsening of unemployment, of impacts on different parts of society etc. with stimulus packages, with investment and similarly to what we saw about 10 years ago with the economic and financial crisis, a lot of that investment a lot of that stimulus will have some sort of green focus. 

I think that’s really a once in a decade if not more opportunity to help more radically

shift you know the trajectory of our economies that would have been possible under normal circumstances in a sustainable direction.