What is COP26? And why is it important to Hospitality?

By Emma Carroll-Monteil and Kate Dranginis

COP26 – what is it? And why are we excited about it?  

Each year, world leaders gather to discuss climate change at the Conference of the Parties – COP. This has been ongoing since 1995, and this year is the 26th meeting – hence the ‘26’ part of COP26. These meetings are the start of pacts such as the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 (at COP21, where all the signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to keep temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius), and are important opportunities for world leaders to evaluate where they are at, what they need to change, and how they are going to implement these changes. This year the UK is hosting COP for the first time, and it is taking place in Glasgow from November 1st-12th .   

What does COP26 aim to achieve and why is it important? 

COP26 will be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted, with an estimated 30,000 attendees – including representatives of Parties to the Convention and Observer States, members of the press and media, representatives of observer organisations (NGOs, etc) businesses, and individuals. COP26 is debatably the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement, and it is critical because it is the first moment where countries must evaluate current progress and set more ambitious goals for meeting the Paris Agreement. To have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, global emissions must halve by 2030, an

What does COP26 mean for hospitality? d hit ‘net zero’ by 2050. According to the recent IPCC report, this is still possible, but only with immediate and significant action. COP26 essentially will be the plan for this action.  

We see COP26 as having a huge impact on the food and drink sector on macro and micro level:  

In the macro: our planet, the health of it, and the health of the people who live on it are undeniably shaped by the food we eat. Our food system has significant and complex impacts on the environment, and this is shaped by farming methods, where food is grown, where food is transported to, what pesticides and fertilisers are used, what energy goes into growing the foods, what is fed to livestock, what land is used… and so on. What we eat, really, really matters: around 1/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Meanwhile, food waste also is a huge contributor to climate change – contributing around 10% to emissions in itself. Meanwhile, energy use, water, and all those other fun things that food and drink consumption involves also play a large role in producing emissions. What we choose to stock, serve, sell, consume – it all makes a difference, and hospitality has a huge role to play in this. Our menus, our suppliers, our sourcing all contributes to emissions, and will need to change in order to reach these targets that COP26 will outline. And, as you probably suspected already, and likely have seen in the leaked COP26 documents already – we know that there are definitely going to be big discussions around food.  

Meanwhile, there’s also a lot of elements on the micro – or more immediate level – that COP26 is promoting. First, it is prompting businesses – especially those in Glasgow – to revisit and improve their sustainability practices. For example, in Glasgow, a ‘green training’ provider has been appointed to ensure all official accommodation for anyone involved in COP26 will be in line with ‘climate change credentials’. 

Similarly, a series of campaigns have launched alongside COP26 to marry the aspects of sustainability and hospitality. The Plate Up for Glasgow campaign, for example, is live from October 12 to November 12, and is a hospitality-led campaign, highlighting the issue of food waste and its impact on both the environment and the local economy. As part of this, a huge variety of restaurants have joined in offering a low-waste menu option during the campaign period. Not only are campaigns like this exciting environmentally, but they also are the start of hospitality finally getting a bit more back to normal, and building back, as much-needed tourism is finally returning to Scotland again. 

Without rattling on for too much longer, we’d also just like to share some events that we are particularly excited about. We’ll be attending the Net Zero Now event at Drygate on the 4th, for a series of events that integrate climate change, hospitality, and the arts. We also will be supporting the Agri – Food Transition Summit, which is a collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Climate Action, taking place as a hybrid event live in-person and online from the Innovation Zone during COP26 in Glasgow on the 11 November.  

‘Let Glasgow Flourish’, is the city’s motto. COP26 certainly feels like the time to let Glasgow’s hospitality sector prove that it is emerging from the challenge of the last two-years and doing so with a greater focus on climate and social responsibility. Let’s all take heed, and showcase what a vibrant, creative and resilient industry we are and how we can continue to flourish in greater harmony with our planet. 

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