At the summit, high-level negotiations will take place between the more than a hundred participating countries, including on limiting global warming.
Face of climate policy
Prime Minister Mark Rutte may be the face of the Netherlands at the conference, but he does not participate in all negotiations himself. That is what the Dutch climate envoy, Prince Jaime de Bourbon de Parme, does.
“As a climate envoy, I am one of the faces of Dutch climate policy,” says De Bourbon. “I represent our ministers and oversee the negotiations of the experts.”
The urgency of the climate problem has never been greater, he says. “For every person, everywhere on this planet.”
At the same time, he sees that there is currently the ‘greatest public decisiveness’ for climate solutions. “This is the international momentum since the Paris Agreement. The European Union, China and now the United States in particular make this their priority.”
His role at COP26 is twofold, he says. On the one hand, as a climate envoy, he helps to encourage countries with less climate ambitions. He wants to help countries that want to show ambition, but are unable to do so because of internal political problems, for example, to find a solution.
Adapting to Climate Change
On the other hand, he focuses on solutions for climate adaptation. “We’ve seen the wildfires and floods. It’s happening worldwide and some parts of the world are more sensitive to it than others,” he says. “Do we have knowledge in-house that we can share so that they can adapt?”
In addition to delegations from Dutch ministries and NGOs, a number of Dutch companies also traveled to the climate summit. One of those companies is ASN Bank, which aims to be climate positive by 2030.
“So not only compensating for CO2 emissions, but also getting more out of the air than we put in,” says Freek Geurts. It is also the reason that he and his fellow sustainability advisor Emmelien Venselaar are in Scotland: to draw attention to large-scale CO2 capture and storage, for example by building much more with wood and other natural materials.
“Natural materials, such as trees, retain CO2. If you then build with them, you have sustainable CO2 storage: biobased structures can last for hundreds of years if they are modularly built.”
They are given the freedom to think about it in an unorthodox way. What many people don’t realize is that we can remove CO2 from the air through nature, says Geurts. “That can be done via plants and trees, but whales also store CO2 in their bodies. When they die and sink to the bottom of the ocean, that forms a natural CO2 storage.”
Filling empty gas fields
Unfortunately, a large-scale whale breeding program is not possible, too many are needed for that. Geurts and Venselaar especially want to indicate that they see more in natural solutions than in technical ones. “There is quite a lot of attention for pumping empty gas fields with captured CO2,” says Venselaar. “That costs billions and there are also disadvantages.”
Geurts and Venselaar present this week the method that can be used to measure how much CO2 a building can store. The method would fit in well with the European Green Deal, says Geurts. “But we also see that the idea often only comes across if it is already being used on a large scale somewhere. And that is not happening yet.”
All those thousands of participants in a climate summit must somehow get there. Mara de Pater and her colleagues from Youth for Sustainable Travel came up with a sustainable solution for this.
From plane ticket to train ticket
The idea for it was born in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. De Pater and a few others wanted to travel in a sustainable way to the previous climate summit, which was to be held in Chile. This is how Sail to the COP was born. But then social unrest broke out in the South American country and that conference was hastily moved to Madrid.
“We heard that over the satellite telephone,” says De Pater. “And we were quite shocked.” It soon became clear that they would never be back in time to join Madrid themselves. “Then we appealed to people to convert their plane ticket to Chile into a train ticket to Madrid.”
“We joked about it: If we like this, why not try to fill a whole train next time?” she says. And she succeeded. The train that was planned for 2020 ran from the Netherlands to Scotland last Saturday after the postponement last year.
With the Youth for Sustainable Travel she hopes that the travel theme will be discussed during the COP26 in Glasgow, in particular the role of aviation in the emission of greenhouse gases.
Responsibility to the European Union
“It is slowly getting more on the political agenda, but for the time being aviation and shipping are not affected. The plans for aviation are not in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, which must be adjusted.”
Keep in mind, says De Pater, that the European Union is a big flyer and can therefore take a very big responsibility in this.
“I would absolutely be in favor if the EU replaces all flights under 1000 kilometers with train journeys. Governments are a bit afraid to implement such measures, but with corona you saw: in a crisis anything is suddenly possible. The climate crisis is already so far along that it is also time for these kinds of measures.”