Staff and volunteers attended various events and marches over the 2 weeks at COP26, here is a selection of feelings, thoughts and reactions to what we saw and learnt.

A few words from Carolyn on the day trip to the Green Zone, volunteer co-ordinator at ReMode:

Hanging around with the Remode crew in-person and outside of the workshop for a day was absolutely bloody lovely. We spent the morning listening to some advertising industry folk talking a good game about how they planned to tackle the role the industry plays in consumerism, with not many (any?) proper solutions put forward. It was entertaining none the less and a light-hearted start to the day.

We were then treated to Brian Eno (and his weak bladder) hosting a whole bunch of artists and creatives discussing how art explores climate issues and how culture as a whole can pick up where science leaves off in engaging communities about climate breakdown. One of the main takeaways here was the importance of collaboration. Working with others and other artistic disciplines is hands down going to bring about quicker, more engaging and interesting explorations into climate breakdown solutions – which just so happens to mirror the ReMode ethos. The session ended with a slightly cringe-worthy but sweet mass singalong to ‘oh what a beautiful day’ where the intention, I think, was to bring everyone together and evoke a sense of community before sending us on our merry way.

After a good few toilet breaks of our own, we were onto the final session of the day – a film showing and panel discussion with young eco-activists from YMCA’s all over the world. This event in-particular was galvanising for me. Having a strong affinity with the YMCA when I was growing up (not due to religion I want to add!), it was fantastic to see intelligent and super inspiring young people engaging with the organisation and for it to still be supporting and encouraging those in need without prejudice or conditions. The generosity and kindness shown to me by the YMCA and it’s staff as a youngster really had a huge impact on the person I’ve grown up to be, and to see that they are now at the forefront of youth climate action worldwide was a hugely energising and motivating way to end the day, and to end COP26. As a youth-led organisation ourselves, the solutions put forward by these young activists helped me put into context how the work that we do really can have wide reaching impact. Whether we reach 20 people or 200 at an event, the message still gets there and it’s the youngest of the bunch who will embed this learning into their daily lives while the older generation are slow and reluctant to react. Some of the words spoken were so heartfelt and emotive, it was a humbling experience and one that I know I’ll return to when in need of a morale boost.

A few words from Esmee Balcewicz about the day in the Green Zone, ReMode guest seller and volunteer:

I really enjoyed my morning spent at COP26 with Remode- it felt exciting to finally be attending an event after being surrounded by the buzz of the conference for the past two weeks.

My highlight of the day was seeing ‘Arts and the Imagination’ hosted by Brian Eno! Perspectives of creatives from all different avenues were explored, the conversations were thoughtful and for me it really highlighted the importance of artists in imagining and creating a more positive, sustainable future.

I thought it was lovely when Brian Eno sang ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’ to round off the talk, with his daughters and eventually the rest of the crowd joining in. It left me feeling hopeful and energised, and I sensed that the rest of the group felt the same!

A few words on the events in the Green Zone from Jane Simpson, board member:

It is so important to be meeting in different spaces and meeting new people discussing the most important questions at this moment in time. This simple act re-focuses and re-energises people/groups. To be in the space with passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable humans that I can listen to, learn from and share stories with is simply the best. It’s a support system that wakes us up to keep on with our missions in hand that can often be incredibly frustrating, impossible tasks that cannot be reached because of red tape/human barriers.
Whatever happens next COP has been an important event echoed around the world. The power of the people can make the difference.

Thoughts from Jane Dixon, project manager at ReMode, on the emotions COP26 has encouraged:

COP 26 has left me with mixed emotions.

Being at the climate march and within the Green Zone was immensely uplifting. It made me aware more than ever that there are so many people from all parts of the word, with very different perspectives, who all care passionately about the climate crisis, understand the challenges that we face and who are doing everything they can to make a difference.  I felt part of a powerful movement whose momentum is unstoppable.

Switch to the world immediately outside that bubble and it feels that COP 26 has barely made a ripple on the surface. Where is the crisis? Who really cares?

The disparity between these two states is hugely frustrating and disheartening. However, the reality of the imminent impacts of climate change are so stark and irrefutable that frustration cannot be allowed to be the lasting emotion.

For me, it is the strength and passion of the people that I saw at the COP events that I hope will stay with me. From just the small snapshot we saw, it is clear that there are representatives from every worldwide community – whether those are geographic, political, artistic, or other communities of interest – who now understand the serious and urgent nature of the crisis.

Remode is just one tiny organisation focusing on one particular element of negative environmental impacts, but knowing that we are part of a worldwide network of passionate people is a huge inspiration – one that we can draw strength from and which gives us the confidence to shout loud about what we care about.

COP26 highlights and low points from Carol Gemmell, chair of the ReMode board:

Visiting the Green Zone-
40 years is a long time, I watched an amazing performance by young people from Gloucester who
are in their early teens and 40 years younger than me – we do not have another 40 years to fix this.

The March on Saturday-
Highlights – Caroline Lucas, no litter, positive and supportive atmosphere, folks of all ages, typical
magical Glasgow humour displayed on banners and signs, huge numbers, the rainbow as we passed
over the M8.

Lowlights – largely unreported huge numbers and how tough the weather was. I wonder how many
more would have turned out if the weather had been just a little bit better.

The Final Outcome –
A Tory crying – Alok Sharma cried and apologised for the weakness of the deal struck. The
conservative government in the room meant that many for the first time probably had to face up to
the reality of the climate crisis rather than carping from the sidelines. The positives were – no one
was disputing it’s a crisis, no one was disputing we need to get to net zero – the lowlights are the
depressing amount left to do in an every narrowing window of opportunity.

A few words on the Green Zone events from Amy Gardner, fundraising and marketing assistant at ReMode:

I felt so grateful to be attending an array of talks happening in the Green Zone as part of COP26, with ReMode staff and volunteers. I knew we’d be leaving armed with refreshed motivation and new information to aid us in the race against time and ecological destruction. It was a captivating day, experiencing artists, poets, activists, and writers take to the stage and talk passionately about the state of world. Emotions were high! And necks were craned to take in the expanse of the huge IMAX cinema screen in the Glasgow Science Centre, that was showing documentaries and live video interviews. A particular part that has stuck with me strongly was something Rebecca Nkunde, the YMCA ambassador for Zambia said in the afternoon event Creating Youth-Led Solutions: Sharing Stories and Insight with YMCA. She said we need to stop taking ourselves out of the problem, and start properly realising that we are part of the problem.

It sounds so simple but it’s so accurate. Climate crisis isn’t a problem that has arisen from some strange alien source. The cows aren’t creating it. The cars aren’t. We created it, with our own will. Us humans did! In all our daily choices and what we consume. It will be us that dismantles it too. I really needed to be reminded of this.

A few words from Nuala Forde, ReMode volunteer:

I thought Glasgow was an interesting choice for COP26, it’s wet and cold, and so small that vast numbers of visitors had a huge effect on travel infrastructure; however, it’s a city with an amazing sense of community, who welcome others with open arms and I think this was clear to see during COP26. 

It was wonderful to see so many people from around the world visiting our wee city for the first time. Even many indigenous people making it from places as far away as South America despite such difficult travel restrictions. These people were coming from countries which will be the most affected by climate change so I’m glad they were given a chance to plead their case. 

Young people are another group impacted by the climate crisis, I attended the Fridays for Future march alongside others from Remode and we were stood side by side with children as young as 6, missing school for the day to march for a cause much more important – our future on this planet.

In the second week of COP I visited the Green zone, here the events and talks weren’t just open to world leaders and delegates, but also to the general public. I watched a play titled Being Human Being Salmon which talked of the salmon people and how humanity can live in harmony with the salmon as long as we fish sustainably, but that currently fish farming is ruining this symbiotic relationship and will soon lead to the extinction of wild salmon.

Glasgow was an interesting choice for COP26 but it was definitely the right choice, and I truly hope that the discussions had in our wee city are enough to combat climate change and give us back our future.

Thoughts from Rhona Millar on Arts and the Imagination by Brian Eno and guests:

The moment Kim Stanley Robinson’s soothing voice descended upon the packed-out auditorium, a hush fell, the audience sat trance fixed. Backed up with the ambient sounds of Brian Eno, this, I realised, was going to be a special event. It has taken some time to digest all that I experienced attending, every single speaker made it emotional and thought-provoking. The main things if I had to pin them down were as follows. The lovely surprise when Neil Gaiman appeared onscreen declaring, ‘we need to reach people’s hearts, not just their minds.’ Poet and activist Emi Mahmoud taking us on an emotional rollercoaster, her passion, and physicality made me rise and fall and rise again with her incredible poem Di Baladna [Our Land]. Kumi Naidoo, activist shared his thoughts on arts and activism making visible what is happening in the world, saying we need to turn our gaze away from those who have power, instead turn it towards the powerless and create more avenues for people to participate, and to feel the optimism of our actions, which in turn can give people agency and ‘it’s the only time those at the top are going to listen.’ ‘We have to make the struggle for climate change a human centred struggle.’ These words echoed through me. Towards the end of the event Ben Okri’s daughter Mirabella, read out a letter to the Earth, and when she was being clapped off stage, her father said, ‘she hadn’t quite finished’ and her parents encouraged her to carry on, she sang a song, with the moving lyric, ‘we are the hope of the world.’ I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the auditorium. This made me think about the power her parents gave her, to carry on, to finish what she was saying, and it resonated for me in the wider context. The event in its totality touched my heart, it felt transformative and made me wonder how much can be achieved through the arts.

Thoughts from Finni Porter Chambers, creative assistant at ReMode:

COP 27 is to be held in Egypt. Another opportunity for climate activists and political and business leaders to rally together and discuss options for climate change. Will a local Egyptian sustainable fashion team close their shop to listen to inspiring speakers? Will they all come away inspired to continue living as sustainably as possible? Will they laugh and joke and contemplate and consider over coffee breaks as we did? At COP 25 did a similar group gather? What about at COP 24? 23? 22?… At what point will there be a substantial change that seriously reduces the amount of carbon emissions?


You can watch back the events we went to here: