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Why Rotary is Here, and a Link to Daily News.

Karen Kendrick-Hands is ESRAG’s representative on Rotary’s first-ever official delegation to the UN Climate Conference. She suggests you subscribe to the UK’s daily COP26 newsletter for a good overview of each day’s agenda and actions.

What is COP 26 and why is it crucial?

Running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is the first since Rotary International added Protecting the Environment to its causes. Keeping global warming below 1.5°C requires the international cooperation of every nation, all businesses, and civil society. COP 26 is the arena in which those relationships are forged that will help us build solutions. As ESRAG’s Director of Partnerships, I came with a goal to connect with the World Meteorological Organization and representatives from the Women and Gender Constituency. I succeeded on the first day.

Here’s the context in which Rotary’s participating

In addition to “party delegates” of the 197 nation parties to the UN’s 1992 climate treaty, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) accredited with the UN – like Rotary International (RI) — send “observer delegates.” At this first COP since RI added the Environment to its causes, RI has a five-person delegation of observers in support of its commitment to:

  • Address the cause of climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases,
  • Strengthen ecosystems and communities affected by climate change,
  • Address environmental justice issues and public health concerns.
Networking off to a great start!

Because of COVID 19, observer delegates have very limited access to official meetings, but we are already making real progress in building connections in public spaces at COP:

  • On Oct. 31, I met with Maxx Dilley of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) right after he reported at the SBSTA plenary session. Dilley is the Director of the WMO’s Climate Programme. WMO is the UN agency responsible for gathering weather which drive the UN climate models, and has a volunteer observation system to help fill the data gaps that reduce the accuracy of their models. We are at the earliest stages of exploring how Rotary clubs and districts can support additional meteorological data stations — especially in Africa — to help fill those critical weather data gaps. If you are a weather or tech geek – contact me!
  • I also had a productive chat with a leader of the Women and Gender Constituency for COP. WGC is looking for project partners to focus on gender-just initiatives that will benefit women and girls, even as the devastations of climate change disproportionately impact them. For past projects check here. The budgets are comparable to Rotary District and Global Grant projects, and I am hoping that ESRAG can help them find funding, especially this year, given RI President Shekhar Mehta’s focus on empowering women and girls. Too often, national projects involve millions and billions, and women’s specific needs are sidelined. I laid the groundwork to bring key players together later in the COP.
  • Larry Hands met over coffee with folks from Mediators Beyond Borders International, who already have a partnership with the Rotary Action Group for Peace. Because peace and climate are so intertwined, MBBI has a climate conference team. The RI delegation will be meeting folks from university climate programs from around the world throughout the two weeks of COP, because Rotary International has aligned with the Research and Independent NGO constituency (RINGOs).
  • Greg Walker, who works with MBBI, is also a professor from Oregon State University, and a leader of our RINGO constituency. Greg sees Rotary as a terrific partner, fondly remembering PRI President Riseley’s Peace and Environmental Sustainability Conference in Vancouver, 2018. Greg also works with the Climate Education Communications & Outreach Stakeholder Community. This group are logical partners if Rotary and ESRAG decide to use the 6 avenues of Action for Climate for Empowerment (ACE) discussed below. I’ll gather info at COP26 – but fleshing out this opportunity will be an ongoing post- COP commitment.
Rotary warmly welcomed

In our first 24 hours at the conference, we’ve seen an enthusiastic response from many participants who know about Rotary because of clubs in their community. Meeting our delegation is the first notice for many of them that Rotarians are now working on the environment and climate change. Larry Hands met US Climate Envoy John Kerry, handed him his Rotary card, and said, ‘Rotary is here!” Kerry’s response: “Cool!”

In 2018, I attended COP24 in Katowice, Poland as Rotary’s first observer delegate to a UN climate conference. (Read about my experience in eight blog posts). The last day of COP 24, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on civil society to engage, noting that the science is moving faster than world leaders. I believe he was speaking to Rotary, as a premier example of civil society. One delegate noted that the UN process needs a ‘distributed network of community leaders’ to make the promised national pledges to reduce emissions and increase adaptation a reality.

One way to engage is for Rotary to work within the UN-provided framework, Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE), six areas in which Rotarians excel:

  • Education
  • Training,
  • Public Awareness,
  • Public Participation,
  • Public access to information (transparency),
  • International Cooperation.
Call to action

Follow the activities of Rotary’s COP26 delegation on this site and ESRAG’s Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages, and talk about our work in your club and community. We must connect ourselves and our clubs within our communities to ensure that the promises and ambition of COP26 become the reality of meaningful decarbonization, adaptation and resilience at home. I aim to return from COP26 with specifics to share and renewed commitment to make a difference in our long, shared journey to climate solutions. Together: we can, we will, we must make a difference and serve to save lives by acting on climate solutions.

Photo: Photo: Maxx Dilley, Director of the World Meterological Organization’s Climate Programme, discussing the potential for collaboration with ESRAG’s Karen Kendrick-Hands. Rotarians’ global network of local volunteers could help fill serious gaps in weather data needed for the UN’s climate modeling.