Tag Archives: conference

What COP26 Is And Why It Matters

Image Credit: Casa Rosada, CC BY 2.5 AR, Image Cropped

COP26 has dominated the news over the past two weeks. The post pandemic world has watched as finger pointing and vague promises have emerged from Glasgow as talks progressed. But underlying all the drama is the realisation that the world is rapidly approaching a point of no return.

For many people the COP circus is just a bunch of world leaders hogging the news outlets for two weeks every year talking a lot of blah, blah, blah. But there’s more to it than that. It may not be obvious, but some genuine collaboration and agreements come out of most COP (Conference of the Parties if you’ve ever wondered) events. So let’s take a closer look and see what it’s all about.

The Background

To understand what the COP is, you need to know what the IPCC and UNFCCC are. The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which came about at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The Earth Summit was inspired by the Brundtland report, a report headed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. It popularised the definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The UNFCCC is essentially a commitment to a sustainable future, with responsibilities handed down to different countries depending on their economic status. It ostensibly encourages ‘developed’ countries to lead the way, often funding climate change related projects in ‘developing’ countries. It’s actually only one of three different treaties signed at the Earth Summit, which initially primarily was concerned with sustainable development. At the Earth Summit, 154 countries signed the UNFCCC, and it came into force two years later.

The IPCC has a different aim – sort of. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a large team of experts put together to prepare comprehensive reviews of the science surrounding climate change. They’re the ones who put out those landmark climate reports every few years – more about the most recent version here.

Then we have the COP. This usually happens once a year, and lasts for about two weeks. The parties who are signatories to the UNFCCC come together to review progress, share research and make plans for the future. There are (as with any major conference) a variety of keynote speakers, whose speeches often make the news, or at the very least your social media feed.

Do They Mean Anything?

A lot of good has come from these conferences. The 1992 Kyoto Protocol was a product of one of the first conferences, and committed parties to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions by individually defined amounts over a given time period. The Paris agreement in 2015 was a product of COP21, and set a key goal for countries to limit the global average temperature increase to below 2 degrees, ideally below 1.5. Yet as with many of these conference decisions, the targets aren’t enforceable, so the COP is often accused of being one giant mess of greenwashing, grandstanding and back-patting.

It’s hard to argue with many of these claims. The private jets these leaders use seem like mass hypocrisy – if the global shakers and movers can’t limit themselves to (lord forbid) first class as opposed to a private jet, it’s hard to convince the rest of us they’re there to help. But where I feel the real strength of these conferences lies is in the harsh glare of the public spotlight which is shone on the world governments who claim to be tackling the climate crisis. For all the Australian Prime Minister’s talk on how he’s working towards a sustainable future, when you’re almost universally panned by scientists and other countries it’s hard to maintain that image. They’re an opportunity for the public to hold their politicians accountable, and see whether or not they’re doing their job in ensuring a sustainable future for humanity.

So What Happened At This One?

It’s difficult to summarise the last two weeks in a couple of paragraphs. Often the results of these conferences aren’t immediately visible, as there’s a universe of difference between a national COP commitment and actual implemented policy once the leader returns home. This report last week from Indonesia outlining their massive U-turn on deforestation is a case in point. The draft text released by the parties this week though was pretty dire, and expressed very serious concern at how little has been done to limit rising temperatures, and how much remains to be done.

I’ve listed some articles below that go into a bit more detail on some of the highlights surrounding the event.

Jeremy Corbyn hits out at COP26 ‘greenwashing’

At COP26, new alliance tries to kill oil and gas industry

Barack Obama has a nerve preaching about the climate crisis

Women bear the brunt of the climate crisis, COP26 highlights

If you have any questions about the conference or want to know anything about what you can do to live more sustainably, as always, feel free to get in touch.


Dr. Sam Perrin is a freshwater ecologist who completed his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and is currently working as a climate data analyst at Ducky AS. You can read more about his research and the rest of the Ecology for the Masses writers here, see more of his work at Ecology for the Masses here, or follow him on Twitter here.

Virtual Virtuosi or Vacuous Vassals: The #BES2020 Festival of Ecology Write-Up

Every year after I am finished with Europe’s largest ecology conference I write a summary of my most memorable thoughts and experiences. Truth be told, I didn’t think I’d bother this year. Surely a virtual stand-in for the British Ecological Society’s Annual Meeting can’t be that noteworthy? But here we are.

Let’s get the obvious over with – this year has been a nightmare for most. Fieldwork has been cancelled, offices and campuses have been shut down, and many researchers (including those completing PhDs, a group already disproportionately suffering from a cocktail of stresses, anxieties and other fun stuff) have been wracked with even more stress than usual.

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Timewarped

Although virtual conferences have broken down geographic boundaries it has introduced the problem of timezones as well as the dreaded zoom-fatigue. Nothing like a few all nighters in a row to help you dissociate from reality for a while…

Oh and don’t forget the added desk clutter and absolute crumbling of any sense of time management.

Although meeting virtually may never replace a quick chat in the hallway the chance to still meet up with colleagues and learn some cool things along the way makes it worth it!

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

Conference in the Time of Corona: A Beginner’s Guide to Hybrid Conferencing

This article was co-authored by Jonatan Marquez.

About a year ago, my colleague and friend Jonatan and I were asked to organize EvoDemo7, the 7th Annual Meeting of the Evolutionary Demography Society. It was planned to be a traditional, small-sized conference: a comfortable, almost family weekend-like get-together of about one hundred scientists from all over the world, nestled in the Norwegian mountains. Little did we know that a pandemic would turn the world upside down and spark the scientific community to come up with creative ways to meet, forge collaborations and share research ideas.

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Ecology at its Most Hectic: The 2019 BES Write-Up

I am completely exhausted as I write this. I’ve just flown back into Norway after spending the week in Belfast at the British Ecological Society’s annual meeting. And whilst I do love attending conferences, after any mental onslaught of information it’s probably a good idea to take a day or two off to relax and let it soak in.

But before I run off on holidays to do that, let’s have a look at some of the most noteworthy points from BES 2019. I’ll touch on the words of some of the plenary speakers, the general atmosphere and I will try MY ABSOLUTE HARDEST not to talk about British politics.

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Thoughts on ESA2019: Inclusion, Biodiversity Data, and Twitter

It was easy to feel inspired about ecology with this view from the conference hotel.

It’s been two weeks since the 2019 Ecological Society of America conference and I’m still collecting all my thoughts about the meeting. My experience at ESA was, as they say, a little like drinking from a firehose: there was an enormous number of exciting talks, sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities, and I inevitably had time to experience only a fraction of them.

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Making Lake Superior Again: Thoughts from the International Charr Symposium

Lake Superior, the location of the 9th International Charr Symposium

Lake Superior, the location of the 9th International Charr Symposium (Image Credit: Environmental Protection Agency, Image Cropped)

This week I’ve been lucky enough to represent NTNU at the 9th International Charr Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota, a conference focussing on one of my focal species in the genus Salvelinus. Conferences are like this are great for soaking in a swathe of alternative perspectives, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts from day one of the symposium, including a sign of success, one of innovation, and another of hope.

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