Reflections from COP26:
Where's Canada?

November 3, 2021

Over the last four years, Canada has made some bold commitments to climate change. From the $170 Carbon Tax to the $3.3 billion Net Zero Accelerator, it seems like policy and capital are moving in the right direction. But is it enough, and is it hitting the mark?   

General sessions at the conference started today at 2pm. To be frank, the centre was chaotic with attendees trying to navigate what activities were actually taking place and where. In addition, the technology platform developed specifically for COP was not (and is not) working…but we climate change champions are nothing if not adaptable, so onwards we go!   After all, what did we do before event software?

As a proud Canadian, I was REALLY excited to whip out my Canadian flag, so that is exactly what I did. My new Glasgow bestie, Juvarya, and I pulled out our Canadian flags and began to work our way through the halls and pavilions of the most anticipated climate event of the year:  #COP26.

Within 30 minutes, we had to put our flags away! Many fellow attendees from Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa were asking us: Where is the Canadian pavilion located? A good question, and one that we could not answer. We saw this as an opportunity and a call to action. Where is Canada? We are everywhere. We are engaging across the entire conference centre, we are at the negotiating tables, we are making key partnerships and meeting new customers, and we are fighting for meaningful change - now! 

The presence here is energizing. Countries, collectives, and high-priority areas such as energy, hydrogen, forestry and waste management, as well as nature based solutions, peatlands and cryosphere champions. 

Some countries went big, and others kept a narrow focus. Some notable displays included:

  1. United States of America - America Is All In Pavilion
  2. Korea - Waste Management and Circular Economy 
  3. Thailand - Data, Assets, Energy Storage, CCUS, and Forestation
  4. Colombia - All About the Paramos (52% of the world’s!)
  5. Denmark - Partnerships for a Cleantech Future (right up our alley at Foresight)
  6. Brazil - Indigienous Communities and Climate Action Hub

Oh, and I saw John Kerry but missed Leonardo Di Caprio. You win some, you lose some.

While Canada doesn’t have an official pavilion (the recent federal election likely prevented the planning required for that), Canada is represented in many ways. Foresight confirmed that over 80 cleantech ventures from our community will be here in Glasgow. Our Prime Minister and many key cabinet ministers have been here. Provincial and Municipal leaders are here. And of course there’s one Canadian we all know leading the global finance initiative - well done, Mark Carney!

The two groups absent any fancy displays or speaking opportunities were the innovation community, and industry representatives - who in my opinion should be front, centre and welcomed boldly throughout the entire conference. We need to get to a place where we embrace the candid realities of where industry needs support, understand the solutions we have in Canada to tackle deeply rooted climate challenges, and boldly call out the immediate actionable opportunities for all relevant stakeholders. At the end of the day, no matter how much money is available, if we can not engage all stakeholders (including the average consumer), every two steps forward could be followed by one to two steps back.   

Photo Caption: Jeanette Jackson with Juvarya Veltkamp, Director, Canada Climate Law Initiative at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law