Carbon Copy: COP26 Pavilions bring on climate action plans and complimentary chow

GLASGOW – Multilateral negotiations at the United Nations (UN) climate meeting can be serious, sometimes tense, as nations hammer out a global deal that will not cross their “red lines” and compromise their national interests.

But there can be a light-hearted side to these conferences, for instance, in the part of the venue where countries and organisations set up their pavilions.

This section is not unlike a travel fair, with various “booths” decorated in unique ways to represent a country.

Countries try to out-do one another with displays that showcase their national heritage and national climate plans.

The South Korean booth, for instance, is dressed prominently in the colours of its flag – red, blue and white – while Brazil’s has an eye-catching wall of images from its indigenous communities.

The two are among the more than 80 pavilions found at the Scottish Event Campus where COP26 is being held.

The Straits Times unearthed some interesting nuggets about the pavilions.

1. A space for conviviality

Other than as a showcase for national climate plans, pavilions also host activities such as panel discussions and press conferences.

They are a key feature of every UN climate conference, and this year’s is no exception.

Hear from The Straits Times’ climate change editor David Fogarty (above) on why countries and organisations want to engage directly with delegates, and why the pavilions are such a key component of the yearly conferences.

2. Voices from Asia… and fossil fuel nations

Asia is represented on the pavilion floor by booths from nations such as Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, each of which has elements that are instantly recognisable of the country.

At Indonesia’s booth, for instance, one could enjoy free kueh amid leafy walls that evoked an appealing “forest vibe” in the cold northern clime.

Japan’s looked modern and featured technological solutions for environmental problems such as plastics recycling.

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On Friday (Nov 5), designated Youth Day at COP26, Thailand will host two delegates from the Singapore Youth for Climate Action at the country’s pavilion.

Ms Cheryl Lee and Ms Swati Mandloi will be holding an advocacy session called Youth in Climate Action: Our Role. Our Contribution and live-streaming it online.

Those interested can find out more here:

Fossil fuel havens also have a significant presence at COP26.

Pavilions by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were easily among the largest on the floor, and had snazzy large screens showing national environmental efforts.

Australia, another fossil fuel supporter, is showcasing renewable energy firm Sun Cable’s project which aims to connect Singapore to a solar farm in northern Australia via sub-sea cables.

3. Putting issues front and centre

It is not just countries with pavilions at COP26.

There are booths focusing on specific issues – such as methane (a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide though it doesn’t hang about as long), peatlands (a natural habitat that can store lots of carbon in its soil) and nuclear energy.

These pavilions are aimed at raising awareness, through organised talks and panel discussions.

The World Health Organisation also had a strong presence at COP26, with a series of programming that aimed to illustrate the close links between climate change and health.

4. A poignant message from Tuvalu

While most pavilions had upbeat messaging, the one by the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu was more sobering.

Visitors were greeted by life-sized statues of polar bears donning life jackets – a visual cue to how these mammals are losing the sea ice they depend on as the Arctic gets warmer – and a penguin in a noose.

Tuvalu is a member of the Alliance of Small Island States, a coalition of low-lying coastal and small island countries that is urging developed nations to make bolder targets as their populations are especially vulnerable to climate impacts, such as rises in sea level.

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5. Free food

Last but not least, the pavilions are a great place to meet new people and be wined and dined.

From donuts and sandwiches to Turkish delight, many ply visitors with tasty morsels. At the close of every day, some will offer beer and wine so delegates can unwind.

A Telegram chat group, Free Food COP, alerts delegatesto the various goodies. It has more than 500 members so far.

Find out more about climate change and how it could affect you on the ST microsite here.

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