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COP26: Prioritising action over conference stands

By George Ames

COP26, the UN’s Climate Change Conference later this year, is a critical global moment for tackling the climate emergency. However, as organisations scramble to get involved with the machinations of the event itself, it is worth reminding ourselves that the critical question is not “what can we do at COP26?” but “how can we accelerate climate action?”

We are working with a range of clients in different sectors and of different sizes on sustainability communications plans for the year ahead and, for some, COP26 forms a key moment in the year – but for others, it risks being a distraction.

Putting climate action first shifts the focus from positioning to substance. It puts the audiences that need to get involved to achieve carbon ambitions at the centre and it enables a programme of change. This must be the focus far and above what size, dimension and (potentially virtual) location a stand the events budget can stretch to for Glasgow.

The reality is that the closer we get to the conference, the more crowded the external news agenda becomes, the more jostling for position and leadership there will be from those wanting to be at the forefront – and the harder it will be for communications teams to achieve ‘cut through’.

This is not to say organisations should stop communicating, fearful that their attempts at gaining profile will sink without a trace. Far from it – there has never been more consumer and stakeholder appetite for knowing what is being done to address the climate emergency. The Sun’s Green Team and Daily Express’s Green Industrial Revolution are intriguing signs of the times that few would have predicted not even a year ago.

Communications based on leadership, action and exploration of how to overcome significant challenges to achieve climate goals doesn’t need to wait until November – change is needed now and stakeholders want to know what’s being done.

While the countdown to COP26 has well and truly started, the deadline for addressing the climate crisis weighs heavier. This must be the focus for the months ahead.

If you would like a copy of Forster’s briefing pack on COP26 and the opportunities for direct and indirect involvement, please email