WEAll at COP26 – reflections from the team

Published on December 09, 2021

COP26 is over – the agreement, which builds on the Paris agreement of 2015, has been reached, and the city of Glasgow has returned to normality.

During the two weeks of COP, the city was a hive of activity – within the official “blue” and “green” zones of the conference, and across the Glasgow. What did WEAll do during COP, what does our team make of the outcomes, and was it all worth it?

Image: Cameron Brisbane photography

Common Ground Festival

WEAll’s primary goal during COP was to use it as an opportunity to engage new audiences with Wellbeing Economy ideas – making the link between the climate crisis and the need for economic system change.

This meant that we focused our efforts outside the formal conference, on the delivery of the first Common Ground Festival, in partnership with WEAll members fiis (Festival Internacional de Innovacion Social).

Over 1200 people attended Common Ground at the Queen Margaret Union on Saturday 6 November, listening to artists including the Fratellis, Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five, The Twilight Sad, Kitti and many more. They also participated in workshops and listened to leaders from around the world, bringing the Wellbeing Economy to life and inspiring hope about what is possible.

This short video features some of the highlights of Common Ground – and shows the energy, passion and optimism shared by all who attended. Fuller videos of the panel discussions will be available soon.

Connecting with WEAll members

COP meant that many WEAll members from around the world were coming to Glasgow – and given that some of the WEAll Amp team, and of course the WEAll Scotland team, are based in the city, this was a rare and exciting opportunity to connect face-to-face with our network.

We hosted an informal gathering at one of Glasgow’s oldest pubs on Friday 5 November. Over 40 WEAll members and friends spent the evening together, building relationships, sharing ideas and enjoying the feeling of being with the “WEAll family” that for so long has been confined to the world of Zoom! 

WEAll team members also had the chance to catch up with some of our members in longer meetings while they visited Glasgow, and it was a reminder of the importance of “real life” connection, with many seeds being sown and relationships strengthened.

Spreading the message

WEAll was invited to participate in many events connected to COP, and we took up as many offers as possible in order to spread Wellbeing Economy ideas and make connections for diverse audiences. Katherine Trebeck spoke inside the official conference “blue zone” (once for our friends the Club of Rome and for Face the Future – plus held several meetings while there). Katherine and other team members represented WEAll at many online and offline events throughout COP – too many to list!

The WEAll team reflects on their COP experience 

Sarah Deas, WEAll Scotland trustee

“During COP, I mainly participated in online events – of which there were many! I was a speaker at Remade Network’s launch event, sharing my thoughts on the contribution of remakeries to a wellbeing economy. The events that I attended ranged from discussions on the need for systems change to the benefits of a circular economy, decoupling growth from consumption and the role of communities in achieving net zero.

“Business was very present at COP (more so than ever before). There was positive engagement – pushing for the right things, trying to increase ambition. The announcement of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero was a positive move, holding the financial community accountable for its pivotal role in addressing climate change.

“It was also good to see the level of activism on the streets. And, the breadth of fringe events (both face-to-face and online). However the outcomes were disappointing on many fronts. The push to get national ambitions as high as possible fell short of the mark. Current pledges don’t go far enough – they will lead to between 1.8 & 2.4 degrees of warming, with catastrophic implications.  And, worryingly, many of the new net-zero targets lack implementation plans.

“We must celebrate progress though: this was made across a range of initiatives. Successes include developments in how Article 6 will be governed (carbon accounting and trading), the methane reduction pledge, ending deforestation by 2030 and the new requirement for net-zero transition plans for listed companies in the UK. Also, the greater recognition of the role of communities and indigenous peoples in addressing climate change. Most importantly there is a commitment to come back with raised ambitions every year (rather than every five years).

“There is plenty to be optimistic about after COP26 – but it is clear that there needs to be a step change in terms of urgency.”

Lisa Hough-Stewart, WEAll Organisation and Projects Co-Lead

“The COP fortnight felt like (and probably was) two years’ worth of human interaction in two weeks – which was glorious, as I’ve been craving it, and also a bit overwhelming!

“It meant so much to connect with WEAll members in person. Looking around at our gathering at Sloans, I had worked with every person there over the past few years, but there were only a handful I’d ever met in person before. I’m grateful that COP brought our community to Glasgow, and gave this opportunity to strengthen the relationships which are at the core of WEAll’s purpose. 

“I was proud of what the team pulled off at Common Ground – a genuinely world-class music festival, which brought Wellbeing Economy ideas to a new audience and communicated them in a fun way. 

“COP was a busy time for me as a musician, too. I performed with SambaYaBamba near the front of the 100,000 strong march on 6 November – we had the privilege of providing the music for the Indigenous bloc. 

“I also took part in a massed band performance of Enough is Enough, a gorgeous song created by Oi Musica, Karine Polwart and the Soundhouse Choir and which WEAll played a small part in supporting. Being on the streets in Govan, raising my voice with hundreds of others with words of hope about a better system, made me feel optimistic and truly connected to others and the planet: the essence of a Wellbeing Economy.

“So, I didn’t have time to go near the official COP and I almost forgot to check up on what was happening with the negotiations. For those of us on the streets in Glasgow, COP was a powerful moment of connection and togetherness, that I truly believe has helped galvanise the Wellbeing Economy movement.”

Amanda Janoo, WEAll Knowledge and Policy Lead 

“In March 2020, right as the COVID-19 lock-downs began sweeping the globe, I started my dream job with WEAll. Attending COP made this work feel real in a way that has been rejuvenating to my core. 

“Upon arrival into Glasgow, the wonderful Katherine Trebeck took me to a music and arts performance, with legends such as Bill Mckibbon and Patti Smith bringing awareness and hope to the climate crisis we face. 

“My first speaking event was in a room filled with fourteen year old girls. The incredible prompt for myself and the other panelists was: “when the problems are man-made, the solutions are feminist”.  Sitting alongside three remarkable women, we fielded some of the most challenging and foundational questions I’ve received in this work to date. Questions such as “why do women feel inferior to men?”, “what does indigenous mean?” and “how can I change the world”, left me humbled and inspired by the generation of leaders to come. 

“One of the highlights for my trip was getting to spend quality time with my colleagues, Lisa, Michael and Katherine. To be able to have conversations that don’t need to have any purpose or outcome, allowed me to deepen my understanding and connection with them as brilliant, kind and incredibly fun people. 

“Lisa and I designed a workshop for students at the University of Glasgow on the Wellbeing Economy. We experimented with a dialogical approach to focus on what the students already knew and their ideas: resulting in fantastic conversations. We realized in developing this workshop that what would have taken ages over zoom, took less than an hour, as the energy and flow of being in person facilitated powerfully generative discussion. 

“Common Ground and our members’ gathering made me feel so grateful to be part of a community that recognizes the transformative power of fun and joy. By bringing people together, and celebrating the gifts we bring to the world as artists, thinkers and changemakers we were able to elevate vibrations and expand our understanding of what the economy is and can be. 

“After MCing one of the festival stages and dancing for much of the night at the Common Ground Festival, I arrived a bit worse for wear to a Climate Campaigners Event but was quickly revived by the rich discussion. This was potentially the most powerful event I attended at COP. Sitting around the large table were not only representatives from organizations such as, Sunrise, Fridays for Future and many more, but critically a group of funders who genuinely wanted to understand how they could better support the movement. I became fast friends with Lina from movilizatorio and we advocated for more long-term, core funding  and asked funders to stop making us differentiate ourselves and rather support greater collaboration across the movement. I had joined this meeting because next year, WEAll aims to connect more with social and environmental movements and are in the process of hiring a Advocacy and Movements Lead to lead this work. I therefore wanted to get a sense of the aims and objectives of the movement and was very encouraged when a beautiful representative from Fridays for Future spoke and said that whilst they recognize the need for economic systems change, they do not always feel comfortable discussing issues related to the economy or finance. I offered our support and look forward to working more with these passionate, powerful and transformative change agents.

“I will end by sharing my proudest moment at COP: I got a chance to speak on a panel organized by Caroline Lucas MP and gave a speech that reflected my journey and passion for the wellbeing economy. If you’re interested you can check it out here.”

Jimmy Paul

Jimmy Paul, Director of WEAll Scotland

“I was inspired by the togetherness of people in the climate marches, the quality of speakers and the energy in events like the Common Ground Festival. I loved that COP brought people together in person (particularly so post-covid.

“However, I can’t help but be disappointed by the political tensions in the lead up to COP26, and ultimately disappointed by the dilution of the agreement.

“I would like to have seen international agreement and commitment to finance for adaptation, loss and damage from richer countries, acknowledging the urgency of the climate crisis on small island states, for example.”

Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Co-Founder and Strategic Advocacy Advisor

“I spent two days in the official blue zone, taking part in events for the Club of Rome and Facing the Future. 

“I was struck by the diversity – my sense is that vulnerable countries do seem to have had more space and influence this time.

“The official space however, felt very busy and airless, there was no natural light. The pavilion section felt like a trade fair!

“I attended many events over the course of the fortnight, and it struck me that fantastic events which at any other time would have had huge audiences had empty seats. With so many organisations tying events to COP, and only so much audience to go around, I can’t help but wonder: if everyone is talking, who is listening? Perhaps as a movement we need to consider the effectiveness of putting so much energy into having a presence at these large events.

“So, I feel that WEAll made the right call going for a different audience with Common Ground, and it feels like we succeeded in our mission to take the Wellbeing Economy conversation to wider audiences. 

“In terms of the COP26 agreement itself – I think both the proponents and the critics are right. It’s not good enough, and it is progress. Coal was mentioned for first time, annual check ins are an important step forward – and of course, we need to keep moving further and faster. We should be careful not to be too “us vs them” about the outcome.”

Michael Weatherhead, WEAll Organisation and Projects Co-Lead

“For much of COP26, I had my head down preparing and delivering our Common Ground music festival. Reaching a new audience with the festival was undoubtedly a highlight for me – those that came for the music and left with awareness of the need for economic systems change to sort climate change. 

“Additionally, the inspiring Macaulay lecture by Christiana Figueres, Nicola Sturgeon and two of the young women – Anuna de Wever and Julieta Martinez – who featured on a panel at Common Ground was an undoubted highlight. 

“Christiana Figueres speaks with such hope and humour, yet with the gravitas of someone that knows the reality of how progress is often made.””

Want to join
the discussion?
Let us know what
you would like
to write about!