COP 26

COP26 Recap: Days 1-4


GreenSportsBlog offers up a look at what’s happened at the global climate conference in Glasgow over its first four days. Our top-line take: While the sports world has been very active — impressively so, it says here — from the jump, the record from the world leaders and delegates who doing the actual business of the COP is much more mixed. Of course it’s fair to say that the sports ecosystem, from athletes to sports executives to sponsors to activists and more, have the much easier task.



Sports has largely sat on the sidelines at prior COP climate conferences.

That has definitely not been the case over the first four days of COP26.

On the ground in Glasgow and online, athletes, sports governing bodies, corporate sponsors and sports-focused nonprofits have all made their presence felt. Here are some highlights from days 1-4:

On The Ground


EcoAthletes Champion Rhydian Cowley, narrating a video about the importance of athletes using their voices at COP26. It was played on a loop at the Sport Positive Exhibition Booth in Glasgow on Tuesday November 2 (Photo credit: Claire Poole/Sport Positive)



  • Dave Lockwood, BBC Sport’s climate and environment beat reporter (how great is it that there is such a job!), set the stage for the role of sports at the climate conference with “What Is COP26 And How Does It Affect Sport?”
  • “Dear Leaders of the World,” a video produced with support from the International Olympic Committee, Tokyo 2020 gold medal-winning sailor from the UK, Hannah Mills, and Team GB rower Melissa Wilson, was released. It features Olympians from all over the world, urging delegates to the COP to “leave a legacy of a healthy, safe earth for all”.


Hannah Mills (Photo credit: Nick Dempsey)


  • Nearly 80 percent of track and field athletes from 89 countries, according to a survey released by World Athletics, the sport’s governing body, are seriously concerned about the climate crisis and more than half say that climate change has already impacted them. 
  • World Athletics also dropped an athletes video on Day 1. In “We Can Still Fix This,” runners, triple jumpers, and more, including Olympic race walker and the aforementioned Rhydian Cowley.
  • Recipric founder Kristen Fulmer and co-author Shanda Demorest shared Ten reasons why climate action is good for your front office with SportsPro Media. 
  • The UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action Framework (S4CA) announced new ambitious targets for its signatories, including reaching net zero by 2040 and halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. So far, 46 of the 273 SC4A members have committed to the new goals, including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, Athletics Kenya, BBC Sport, the Premier League, and Formula E.



My take on the news emanating from the actual work being done by world leaders and their delegates at COP26 is “skeptically optimistic”.

Here’s where my skepticism comes from:

  • Leaders are talking the climate talk – but have fallen short on delivering real plans for action. Many countries are making net-zero pledges, but few have concrete plans for how they will get there. Great Washington Post piece on how, together, these pledges won’t hold global warming to 1.5ºC.
  • Big polluters and institutions haven’t stepped up…yet. According to the New York Times, Brazil committed to basically the same emissions cuts as it did in 2015. Australia is counting on technology, reports Climate Change News, that doesn’t exist yet to meet its 2050 goals. India is more of a mixed bag: The BBC says that New Delhi strengthened its 2030 commitments, but pledged to reach net zero by 2070 – a good signal, but far too late to prevent catastrophe. The hope is that achieving near-term targets will help them reach net zero much sooner.
  • Access and accountability are a serious concern. COVID travel restrictions mean that, per Wired, one-third of leaders from Pacific Island nations suffering some of the worst climate impacts are unable to attend COP 26. These same prohibitions have also prevented most Indigenous and civil society observers from attending negotiations, limiting oversight, accountability, and climate justice.


An aerial view of a strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and a lagoon on Funafuti, Tuvalu. The low-lying Pacific island nation is extremely vulnerable to climate change (Photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)



On the other hand, some #COPtimism is certainly warranted:

  • Forests are finally getting the attention they deserve. Over 100 countries, containing 85 percent of the world’s forest cover, have, per CNBC, pledged to end deforestation by 2030 (coupled with about $19 billion in funding).
  • More than 100 countries have also joined the Global Methane Pledge. The New York Times shared that over $300 million in funding has been put on the table to cut dangerous methane emissions.


Matthew Brown/Associated Press)


There are still eight more days of COP to go, with a lot more to come from the sports world — Sport@COP’s athletes’ Day of Action takes place Monday — and it is still an open question as to what the nations will agree to (or not) when we get to the business end of the conference at the end of next week.

Check back with GreenSportsBlog to get updates.


Photo at top: Victor Moriyama/The New York Times)



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