The COP party is over and we need to clean up our act - Lesley McLeod

There are few things sadder than the aftermath of a party. When the lights go up and you see the crisps in the carpet and wine on the walls. When you find unlikely bedfellows under the forgotten coats in the spare room. When you are alone in the kitchen, your head hurts and there is an embarrassing number of empty bottles to put out with the bins. That’s when the reality sets in – and the work begins.

Lesley McLeod, CEO, Association for Project Safety
Lesley McLeod, CEO, Association for Project Safety

So, now the leaders and the negotiators, the delegates and the hangers-on have left Glasgow what are we left with as the caravan moves on, next to Egypt and the UAE after that?

We’ve had some fine words on coal and cows and trees. And that is all good.

And the UK’s promises on green vehicles - and efforts towards Net Zero - are great.

But I feel I’m caught in a revolving door – we’ve been saying all this for years and still there is little to force the pace of change or help people get there. Electric vehicles are still beyond the dreams of people on lower incomes – even if you can find charging points. I lived in Thurso and a round trip to Inverness might be a bit of a challenge and not a stretch of road where you’d want to find yourself out of juice either. Carbon neutral homes are a pipedream when we cannot even insulate homes to prevent damp and draughts.

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Construction is being pushed to build. New homes. New businesses. New infrastructure. And, working as I do at the Association for Project Safety (APS), I’m not questioning this at all. We need all of that – and more. But there is no point in a beautiful home when there is no one left to enjoy it – a truism that’s as relevant to the planet as any of our houses. And, the fact remains, construction is responsible for nearly two-fifths of all that is making the world unsustainably hotter.

And it is not – yet – totally hopeless. There are things that can be done: less concentration on ‘building and more on the ‘built environment’, More prefabrication off-site, more digital design and less by trial and error on the ground. Less waste; less water; more recycling.

But everything comes at a price. And money is always in short supply. Key to success will be how the world funds change while supporting those in poorer places, so they don’t have to ruin their world to reach their dreams. And the UK must help because, aside from self-interest, climate mitigation is as much about addressing race and class as about carbon. No one can reasonably be asked to remain in poverty and pain to allow an old rich, white world continue untouched.

There have been 26 of these COP events and still we are dancing round our handbags. If the process is not just to turn into a sad and cynical rolling gig for ageing partygoers, we need something more than a bland communique when the gavel comes down and the circus rolls on out of town - and out of mind.

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The party is over. We need to tidy up our act. Now.

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