Good COP, Bad COP? Climate change and Raith Rovers’ international links

This article was published in the Raith Rovers matchday programme for the game against Greenock Morton on Saturday 20 November. Rovers won 2-1, and have not scored from open play since in the league (as of 5 Jan 2021).

If you’ve followed the news, you’ll know the United Nations Climate Change Conference – also known as COP26 – was held in Glasgow over the first two weeks of November. The negotiations went well into extra time. Long after we’d secured the three points at Hamilton, just along the road the USA, European Union, China and India were still locked in at the SEC Hydro, thrashing out a deal. Much like the Rovers’ performances against Partick, Arbroath and Ayr, the talks scraped over the line after a wobbly finish. Not everyone was happy, but a global deal to tackle climate change remains intact.

I was fortunate to have access to the negotiations through my role as an Observer for the Open University. Most of this entailed sitting in drab grey meeting rooms watching bureaucrats haggle over brackets and commas, but I did have some time to explore. With nearly 200 countries involved there is a lot to see, so I made it my mission to spend a little time each day finding out how climate change is affecting the home countries of Rovers players past and present.

Fuel for thought

One of the first things I learned is that Dario Zanatta isn’t the only explosive high-energy natural resource to be made in Canada. As a vast and cold country, Canada uses lots of energy for heating and transportation – which is why their country is interested in producing hydrogen as a low-emission source of fuel. The Canadian government minister I listened to acknowledged it was important to create new jobs for the many people who work in oil fields and tar sands. Meanwhile, Slovenia – the homeland of Matej Poplatnik – is focusing on how it can reduce waste by using its ample forest resources to produce food, paper and fuel.

Slovenian timber products

Closing the distance

A more sobering lesson from COP26 was that less well-off parts of the world are already facing the effects of climate change. Thanks to the exploits of Marvin Andrews, Tony Rougier and Harry Panayiotou, Rovers fans have heard about nations like Trinidad & Tobago and St Kitts & Nevis. Countries like these are known as Small Island Developing States. For them, global agreements to reduce emissions are absolutely vital, because rising sea levels threaten their very existence. In these places, responding to climate change means building enhanced storm defences and being better prepared to recover from disasters, rather than using less energy.

The Caribbean Community Pavilion

In recent years, the Rovers have also had on their books several Francophone players eligible to play for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Fernandy Mendy (Guinea-Bissau) and Gregory Tade (Cote d’Ivoire). Countries like Guinea-Bissau are right on the frontline of climate change, facing droughts, severe floods and epidemics linked to warming weather. In Glasgow, these Least Developed Countries – as they are known – grouped together to table a request for money from wealthier nations, in order to help them respond to climate change and compensate for damages. This wasn’t resolved in Glasgow and will roll over to next year’s talks in Egypt.

When it comes to climate change, the scale of the problem and the complexity of what needs to be done makes it hard to know where to start. Focusing in on the human angle can help us to remember what’s at stake and why events like COP26 are so important.

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