The Shape of COP26

 The Shape of COP26

Here are some reflections on the complexity, explosions of life and dull and exclusive side of one of the most disorienting experiences I have ever had. 

By Gaetano Sciarotta | YPA Italy

After almost two weeks of negotiations, it is now time for evaluations. Never before have I been so overwhelmed by the mere idea of having to draw conclusions from what I have experienced over the last ten days. 

There is no doubt that COP26 is by far one of the most disorienting experiences I have ever had. Not because of its gargantuan goal, not because of the simple quantitative-human factor, but because of its shape

Coming here, I expected the shape of COP26 to be like that of a calculator, with hundreds of thousands of voices competing to provide their input, and then someone who, by turning a crank, would pour them out in the form of as many outputs to the world with all their positive and/or negative implications. My expectations could not have been further from reality.

At first glance, COP26 took the form of a dice with infinite faces, rolling, creating a constant alternation of theses and antitheses, the magic of which comes to a halt when the stone guest, the lack of a synthesis, appears. 

Usually, this fact would not bother me much, but this time the profound differences between all the possible levels of interpretation were so many and so deep that for days I had the feeling that there had to be something that I was missing, a piece of the puzzle that did not allow me to focus on the whole picture. 

But simplicity is not in a value in itself, and during the daily repetition of our routine the shape of the dice gave way to a realisation: COP26 has no shape. How could it be otherwise?

COP26 is the tension between the desire and ethics of leading by example and the need for pragmatism in negotiations. It is the magnetism between the pavilions of those who have to sell, attractive and optimistic, and those who have to buy, functional and minimalist. The contrast between the colours of activists, indigenous people and artists, and the sclerotic elegance of grey bureaucrats. It is the proliferation of languages spoken between the corridors and their flattening into broken English in front of a microphone. It is the strength of the chorus of protests that gives way to the cordial exchange of business cards while entering the Blue Zone. 

Beyond the negotiations, which are undoubtedly the most important part of this conference, the apparent lack of shape of COP26 forces us to study its complexity, appreciating its explosions of life and criticising its uniformising, dull and exclusive side. 

I don’t know how an event of this magnitude can be different or better, and I couldn’t possibly say how it can be transformed, but I am absolutely certain that simply asking these questions generates value in itself.

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