Balancing economic sufficiency with environmental excellence at COP26

‘The Journal’ chats with Ontario Green’s Deputy Leader

Queen’s professor Ryan Riordan is attending COP26.

The 26th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) kicked off on Oct. 31, bringing together UN members to combat climate change.

Ryan Riordan, director of research at the Institute of Sustainable Finance, spoke to The Journal about his experiences so far at the conference.

With his combined interests of climate and finance, Riordan said COP26 has been a revelation for him in culminating a broader understanding of today’s climate practices.

“I’m interested in climate and the way that my discipline, finance, can help to alleviate some of the ills of our human behaviour,” Riordan said in an interview. 

Riordan said climate finance—funding from private or public sources to support climate action—is a great way to rehabilitate the way people view the inner workings of finance. 

“The main mission [of the COP26 conference] is bringing people together to find solutions to tackle climate change,” Riordan said.

Riordan is hopeful that UN members can collaborate to keep the global temperature rise below 2.0 degrees Celsius in this century. According to Riordan, this can be achieved financially, as the world’s more prosperous nations have the capital to determine what kind of climate initiatives are funded.

“What is financed gets built, and if we want to build a low-carbon future, that's how we need to finance,” Riordan explained.

Riordan believes that by actively financing climate action initiatives, individuals will be able to make minor changes in their environmental behaviour while financial institutions, governments, and governmental organizations can make large investments into a transition to renewable energy.

While COP26 will continue through to Nov. 12, delegates have already promised to end deforestation by 2030 and discussed the possibility of a global carbon tax.

Riordan says if these actions result in “meaningful changes,” it will highlight the importance of the ongoing conference.

Watching COP26 unfold as a spectator, Abhijeet Manay, Ontario Green’s deputy leader, shared the climate efforts he’s taking in Canada. Manay’s efforts are rooted in his long history of environmental activism in Mumbai, India.  

His views are centered on a national level, which Manay claims is just as important as international action since incremental efforts may lead to large-scale effects.

“We need to build a bridge between the old economy and the new, and take everyone with us to the new economy,” he said in an interview with The Journal

Manay added the importance of considering the Green Wave, a UN-sponsored education campaign empowering youth on biodiversity. He believes initiatives like this can spark contribution from every nation, especially at international conferences like COP26.

He also said climate action needs to take a more inclusive approach.

“Any type of environmentalism or climate action is paired with a just transition. We need an inclusive transition that ensures no one is left behind,” Manay said.  

The Green Party of Canada’s “Roadmap to Net-Zero,” unveiled last week, emphasized targeted assistance for those occupying marginalized identities.

According to Manay, the plan promotes inclusivity by being “rooted in reconciliation,” especially for Indigenous peoples. ‘Roadmap to Net-Zero’ sees 25 per cent of the overall benefits of public investments focusing on “disadvantaged communities.”

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