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Craig McLaren is RTPI’s Director of Scotland, Ireland and English Regions and is leading on COP26 for the Institute.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or COP26 as it is better known, is to take place in Glasgow between 1 and 12 November.  COP26 is the first opportunity for countries to upgrade their Nationally Determined Contributions towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and the themes of the summit are:

  • Adaptation and resilience
  • Energy transition and clean growth
  • Nature based solutions
  • Accelerating the move to zero-carbon road transport.
  • Financing the transition

The RTPI aims to use COP26 as an opportunity to increase understanding of the role planners and planning can play in tackling climate change across each of the four UK Governments, the Irish Government and other national governments internationally.  In doing this we are using our engagement to underline how planning can help to achieve net zero carbon targets and to highlight what is needed to support this.  Our key policy asks are based on the Plan the World We Need research we published last year and focus around COP26 agreeing that:

  • Governments pledge tougher emission cuts by 2030
  • Governments publish plans on how they will reach 2050 net zero carbon which recognise the role that planners, planning and planning systems can play in this.
  • Richer nations fulfil their pledge to help poorer countries to protect themselves against climate impact and decarbonisation

The RTPI Presidential team will be in Glasgow for part of the summit to push our case and engage in debate and discussion.  We are exploring how best to make opportunities to meet with key policy makers, influencers and partners at the sessions and during our time at the summit. The programme for the summit has given each day a theme and we are particularly keen to engage on those days on adaptation, gender, transport and cities, regions and the built environment. We also plan to blog on each of these themes throughout the summit.

In the run up to COP26 have organised a number of events for members that will explore the issues being discussed. We have already held the Irish Planner Live looking at the challenges and opportunities of net zero in terms of compact growth, transport and energy.

The Northern Irish Planner Live covered issues including practical climate action for planners, sustainable infrastructure planning and creating sustainable neighbourhoods, and, The Scottish Planner Live takes place on 7 October and will examine how we can plan for a green economy.  The Annual Young Planners conference on 29 October “Our Place In a Climate Crisis” will look at how we can reduce carbon emissions, protect communities and habitats and work together to tackle the climate crisis and will ask how planning can address the climate crisis and what is the place of Young Planners in responding to this.

We have already seen The Planner magazine’s September edition include a number of articles on planning’s role in delivering the COP26 goals whilst the new issue of The Scottish Planner journal will look at COP26 from a Scottish perspective and the latest RTPI Cymru journal Cynllunio has features on COP26, climate change and zero carbon. 

During the summit itself we will be organising a face to face and webcast event in Glasgow called The Race to Zero: How to Plan the World We Need. This event will be led by the RTPI with support from our global sister Institutes in the Global Planning Network and the Commonwealth Association of Planners and will comprise a series of presentations that highlight the critical role of, and opportunities for, towns and cities across the globe to address climate change and achieve zero carbon places.

We are delivery partners for the UK Green Building Council’s virtual pavilion which will include a virtual exhibition space and we are working with them and other built environment organisations to develop a number of virtual events that will take place during the summit.

Today sees the launch of our new web hub that will provide all the details of our activities. We are encouraging members to check in on this regularly to hear about our activities, new publications and events which will be taken forward as part of our COP26 programme.

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