Targeting Emissions

Promoting change in early years



Glasgow Science Centre

COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held in Glasgow in November last year (2021).  COP stands for Conference of the Parties.  The parties are the signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994 which has 197 parties (196 countries plus the EU).

Activities at a COP take place in two zones, the Blue zone is for people registered with the UN. Delegates from around the world meet for both formal negotiations and informal consultations with other delegations, UN agencies and non-profit organisation.

I couldn’t get into the Blue Zone as applications is by invitation only. Stands in the Green zone must be applied for at least 18 months in advance and are then selected on importance/merit, but the public are able to apply to attend (free of charge).

The Green zone is delivered by the host country (called the Presidency) and this year was at the Glasgow Science Centre, a building that looks a bit like an armadillo.

The building was home to a wide variety of stands, and hosted performances, exhibitions, workshops and talks in its theatres, planetarium and halls.  There was also a live feed from the Blue Zone to a large screen where visitors could listen with individual headphones.  I found the several days I spent there an amazing opportunity to listen and learn, but was surprised attendance was light, despite the event being free.  Maybe COVID, or lack of publicity, perhaps?

In this article I reflect on what I saw and listened to, but from a nursery sector perspective, as follows:

Films As Agents

 “Films as agents for change” was a presentation in the full-dome Planetarium, showing a film called Climate Crimes followed by a live discussion with “communication experts”. The 10-year-old Planetarium film 360 degrees had already been presented at the Paris COP – created by Adrian Lahoud & Michaela French which included amazing and beautiful images of the world from space, and modelling of what to expect when the temperatures increased, designed to inspire change. Speakers included 2 YMCA young people, one from Hawaii and one from Peru, telling their personal stories on the basis that this is a very good way to engage with people, empathy being far more likely to inspire change than fear. I think that engaging with colleagues, children and parents’ stories on their experiences, concerns and hopes regarding climate change is something to incorporate if we want to make changes in our settings.

We make our future

 “We make our future” was another Planetarium film, this time showing a double-quick history of the world’s climate since its creation by the sun.

The film is a collaboration between the University of the West of England and Explorer Dome, funded by the initiative digital engineering, technology & Innovation. The group are now going to take the film around schools and colleges in the Southwest of the country using their portable, inflatable planetarium, to inspire young people to make the right decisions for the planet as well as themselves.

It may be that nurseries and school age children could arrange a showing of this film as a great educational experience, offering cultural capital to all.  Collaborating with local authorities on arranging a showing might enable a more cost-effective way to do this.

Generation Rebellion

Generation Rebellion: the power of intergeneration activism was a screening and workshop with East London women.  A warming presentation showing schoolgirls meeting with retired ladies, mostly from ethnic minorities, and sharing their climate activism through art and music.  Presenting pairs of one schoolgirl and one older woman engaged the audience by telling us something about their 6-week shared experiences, and then asking us to discuss with neighbours in the audience, questions such as “What special powers do you have?” (Such as resilience, listening skills, speaking skills, art skills) and “What type of activist are we?”  (Such as a loud one, one with lots of good ideas, one that makes changes).  And we also learnt a call and response song, which was great fun, and which I recorded to upload to GECCO in case anyone wanted to learn it too.“

Novel Electrification through Advanced Sustainable technologies.

This presentation was mind blowing scientific innovation offered from 5 Professors/PhDs. Some were involved in creating some astonishing new trucks that will be zero emissions and as cost effective and timely as current trucks. They combine electric power with hydrogen to extend the range massively.

Amazing, and we can expect them to transform the sector starting this year, and they are British!

Other academics discussed some of the significant down sides of electric vehicles, such as their batteries, and magnets in the engines, but also showed that solutions had been created already, and are on the way! For example, the cobalt (sometimes mined by children in the Congo) and rare metals used in the magnets (causes pollution of waterways including radio activity and chemicals) could be avoided. And those batteries and electric powertrains already being used could be recycled relatively easily using robots. Very exciting, but I came down with a bang during Facebook communications afterwards where I experienced scepticism not only to EVs but even to denial of climate change. I found this quite upsetting, as it seems to me there is plenty of evidence of climate change and I like to think this is scientific knowledge, not a “belief” like a religion.

I pulled up the NASA climate records to show evidence that 20 of the last 21 years have been record high temperatures, isn’t that scientific evidence enough? The average temperature has not risen significantly over the last 20 years, but we have also had modelling suggest that should it rise over 1.5 degrees that catastrophic rises in sea level will cover many of the currently well populated islands and shores of the world, such as the Maldives, South Pacific Islands and Caribbean Islands.

People make transport:  communities enabling greener travel.

High powered politicians including the Minister for Transport UK Bernadette Kelly and the Scottish minister for active travel and several local Glasgow Politicians were on the podium, having a big push towards public transport.  They talked about greening up routes with planting and benches and using more of the roads for bikes and pedestrians.  They didn’t talk about the Boris bikes that are doing well in London and in my hometown of Bournemouth, nor the shared electric scooters becoming more popular around the country, but they did talk about how difficult it is to go car-less in rural locations, where 95% of people drive and there are few or no buses.

My Personal Experience

“My own experience of getting to COP26 in Glasgow. I was using an EV, which cost under £15 in power for the 496 miles return, including free EV power in Stirling, where I was staying.  I drove to Park and Ride in Glasgow (£5.60) because that was so much cheaper, and faster, than the £17.90 train from Stirling to Glasgow.  I did stand up and give this example in public during the Q&A at this session because perhaps politicians aren’t aware that public transport is prohibitively expensive in the UK currently, when it’s cheaper for a single person to travel by car than by train, never mind if you have a group or family sharing the car.”

What I observed during the COP26 Summit

First Observation

The Hitachi stand displayed “Did you know?  93% of children play in harmful levels of polluted air every day” – wow – but when I asked the source of this quote, no one on the stand knew!  Hitachi were using this to sell Otrivin air filters (apologies for some cynicism!)

On another stand a disc was displayed saying “Milk and dairy foods – better for the planet – eating a balanced nutritious diet in line with the Eatwell Guide, the UKs dietary guidelines, can have a positive impact on both our health and the planet.  If the UK ate in line with the Eatwell Guide research shows it could lead to -34% land use.

Second Observation

I forwarded the Eatwell Guide to our head chef and operations team just in case they hadn’t already got it. Unilever made some impressive commitments to be a force for good in food, halving food waste, and increasing plant-based meat and dairy, for example.

Another stand asked visitors to write a promise for improving their carbon footprint, choosing to ramp up recycling, protect nature, fight food wate or reduce carbon emissions with colour coded cards which you then pegged up on board, which might be a good way to adapt to engage staff and parents?

Third Observation

I saw a banner “I’m sharing my story to help #ClearTheAir – and lots of people had written little messages and put them on a board behind it about children suffering from asthma and allergies – a big call for moving away from diesel and petrol, you might like to add your story?

I added this image to the Ofsted Big Conversation presentation I was organising for the 11th of November, to bring to the attention of nursery owners and managers and we discussed signage in our car parks to remind parents to switch off their cars outside our nurseries, and we also discussed what we can do to encourage sustainable travel by colleagues and parents.


So, what was the result of COP26 other than a signed document that is now available for all to read?  Paraphrasing Friends of the Earth’s and Cool Earth’s summaries:

1. Some countries have recognised the need to end coal, oil and gas. Others are committed to stop financing fossil fuels overseas.  A commitment to end deforestation by 2030 came up too – is that possible?
2.The climate movement is bigger and broader than ever before
3. The UK government is under real pressure to ditch new coal, oil and gas projects.
4. The unfairness of the climate crisis has been in the spotlight. Nowhere near enough has been done to support poorer countries, and indigenous peoples, that have done the least to cause global heating
5. Although the media billed COP26 as the last chance to save the planet, that was never the case. It was an opportunity for progress. But progress doesn’t only happen at these UN summits – the climate crisis was never going to be fixed in 2 weeks, it is ongoing for everyone.

Did you know that every year, oil and gas companies spend over £150m lobbying politicians to block new legislation on climate action? #BackTheFuture.  This means we have a lot of work to do to fight for the right thing to be done, i.e., reduce oil and gas use!

Let’s not forget that today’s children are the ones who are going to suffer most from climate change, and let’s make all the changes that we can to reduce our own carbon footprints at work and at home.


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