Opinion

COP26 is over but the fight for survival is only getting started

Big, bold moves and big investment is needed. It’s not enough to cry ‘levelling up’ but to do little about, writes Big Issue editor Paul McNamee.

Climate activists declared COP26 a failure.

There was a curious air at the end of the COP26 conference. It was only a week or so ago but already feels lost in the rear-view.  

As the final hours ticked over, attendees began to clear out at speed. The fancy pavilion with so many international displays – Italy’s minimalist area was a favourite, though judging climate targets via design is not, I understand, the key way forward – was being darkened and taken down, even before agreement was reached.

I was stopped at least three times on the concourse by delegates who wanted to have their picture taken as they strode out of Glasgow. I’m really bad at taking photos. I fear, literally, blurring their memories. 

The aftermath brought a mixture of positivity and anger. There had been movement, especially on methane, deforestation and a mention of coal, but China and India put the brakes on making 1.5 degree change unattainable in the short-term. 

Debates followed about whether things would ACTUALLY change. I veer towards yes. It feels like we have come a great distance. Environmental issues are no longer fringe, they are central to how we live now. And if we want to live in the future. 

But the laudable aims for the future are always hard to keep in focus when the difficulties of the moment monster them.  

And just now the cost of living rise is quite a beast.  

Last week, inflation hit its highest level for a decade. We can see where the fault lines are opening up. Domestic energy bills are galloping. Fuel at the forecourts is increasingly expensive. Shortage of lorry drivers and Brexit issues are raising food costs. There is a national insurance lift too. And we all know of the crisis so many people on the brink now face as the Universal Credit uplift has been removed. Every think tank worth its funding is warning of a mean, dark winter. 

Demos said that young people, aged 18-30, are going to be the hardest hit age-group. They’re frequently at the start of careers, so salaries are low, they face rent and bill hikes and do not have great wiggle room to meet financial shocks. They’re carrying a burden for a crisis they didn’t contribute to. 

They are not alone. Given where things stand, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that people on a £30,000 salary will need a 7.1 per cent increase from April 2022 just to maintain the standard of living they’re at now. The UK average salary is about £28,000.  

It isn’t hard to foresee a period of strikes as people try to fight for a way to keep their heads above water.  

There are things the government can do. This week, as part of our campaign to avert a mass homelessness crisis, we’ve worked through numbers around rent arrears for people impacted by Covid. A relatively small bill for government will save billions in future. And help the lives of 10s of thousands. 

Beyond that, as we have been asking globally around climate change, big, bold moves and big investment is needed. It’s not enough to cry ‘levelling up’ but to do little about it.  

It is time for leadership. Lives depend on it. It’ll be interesting to see who will step up. 

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big IssueRead more of his columns here.

paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com

@PauldMcNamee

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Homelessness has exploded since I slept on the streets. Here's how to end it once and for all
people experiencing homelessness also face stigma
Matthew Torbitt

Homelessness has exploded since I slept on the streets. Here's how to end it once and for all

BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism
Naga Munchetty

BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism

Purists might baulk, but Sam Smith headlining BBC Proms opens a pathway to classical music
Sam Smith arrives for the 2023 BRIT Awards ceremony at The O2 arena in London. Image: Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Claire Jackson

Purists might baulk, but Sam Smith headlining BBC Proms opens a pathway to classical music

We need more women MPs – but we can't just expect women to stand for election. We must act
Lyanne Nicholl

We need more women MPs – but we can't just expect women to stand for election. We must act

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know