When following a major summit or event there always seems to be a large number of people milling around – whether it be at the forefront or in the background. The larger the event, the more people involved — but who exactly is party to large-scale conferences like the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP), and what can be done either to attend or to follow it from afar?
The COP set-up:
Most large-scale international summits are usually closed to the public as both a security precaution and to certify that the pre-arranged agenda can be discussed without unexpected interruption. These events are attended primarily by government delegations, experts and representatives from major non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) as well as accredited members of the media [1, 2, 3].
COP events are no different but the conference is split across two campuses – the Blue and Green Zones – which serve different purposes. Managed by the United Nations, the Blue Zone will unite over 30,000 experts and decision-makers from around the world. This area will host COP’s panel discussions, side events and exhibits . In order to access this zone, one must be accredited by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An accredited Blue Zone attendee then receives a colour-coded badge that reflects their designation, including but not limited to: yellow for NGOs, blue for UN observers, and orange for media organisations .
The host nation oversees the Green Zone which is designated as an area for members of the public to interact and learn more about COP-related initiatives and projects. All sectors are represented, from youth groups and academia to artists and businesses. Throughout the two-week event, the Green Zone serves as a staging ground for workshops, exhibitions and discussion groups meant to promote collaboration towards social action and education.
Working for a vendor, exhibitor or as an event volunteer will guarantee an opportunity to experience COP26 . This year will mark a COP first in terms of attendance whereby access to the Green Zone will also be available for persons expressing interest to various entities – universities, NGOs, companies, youth groups – who may have passes left after allocating them to their own representatives.
However, the Green Zone isn’t the only way to experience the global summit. The City of Glasgow, NGOs and various entities are also planning their own events, including mass mobilisations and protests [7, 8]. Youth organisations and action groups will be represented and both offer a multitude of ways of getting involved. Certain universities are also proposing opportunities to partake in COP26 and related events through the COP26 Universities Network .
An official schedule for the Green Zone and other non-affiliated happenings has yet to be released but signing up to relevant newsletters and contacting organisations are great ways of understanding all available options. COP26 organisers have also launched a call for applications to become an event volunteer. This involves greeting and helping delegates at transportation and accommodation hubs, as well as helping carry out events in the Green Zone during the duration of the event .
Interested? You can apply here!
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to partake in activities across the Scottish city throughout November 1-12, however, there are also a wide range of engagement opportunities for those unable to be there physically . As aforementioned, media outlets will be present throughout the summit, ensuring comprehensive media coverage discussing various aspects of the agenda and what discussions have been held behind closed doors.
Following official social media accounts for the event itself as well as those involved in it will also yield more information regarding the summit. Outside of following media coverage of the event through your medium of choice, COP26 is expected to upload interviews with attendees on the UNFCCC youtube account, and its side events will be broadcast and available for replay online .
Participating in COP26 isn’t limited to those negotiating and making decisions within the Blue Zone. From taking part in demonstrations in Glasgow to experiencing the Green Zone or keeping up with summit events online, options abound for those interested in attending. Going even further still, studying and working within science communications, policy, and taking part in youth events can provide an opportunity to join a delegation at a future COP or global event. Being involved in climate action in any capacity and learning more about science, policy, and the environment will help shape the solutions needed to safeguard our planet for future generations.
Read more about COPs here:
References ECIU, What is COP26, who will attend it and why does it matter? Available at
https://eciu.net/analysis/briefings/international-perspectives/what-is-cop26-who-will-attend-it-and-why-does-it-matter, (accessed 03/02/21)
 UK Cabinet Office, Get Involved. Available at https://ukcop26.org/the-conference/get-involved/, (accessed 03/02/21
UK Cabinet Office, How to Get Involved. Available at https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Stakeholder-involvement-at-COP26-packV1.pdf, (accessed 03/02/21)
 UK Cabinet Office, Volunteer. Available at https://ukcop26.org/volunteer/, (accessed 03/02/21)
 UNFCCC, An Observer’s Day at COP. Available at https://unfccc.int/files/parties_and_observers/ngo/application/pdf/observer_mini_practical_guide.pdf, (accessed 03/02/21)
 UNFCCC, Side Events Webcast Page. Available at https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/parties-non-party-stakeholders/non-party-stakeholders/side-events-and-exhibits/side-events-webcast-page#eq-1, (accessed 03/02/21) University of Edinburgh, What is COP26? Available at https://www.ed.ac.uk/sustainability/cop26/what-is-cop26, (accessed 03/02/21)
 Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Who Will Be At COP? Available at https://www.stopclimatechaos.scot/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/cop26FinalDocument.pdf, (accessed 03/02/21)
 George Hope & Linsey Wynton (2021), Imperial shapes its role in the UN Climate Change Conference COP26. Available at https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/212733/imperial-shapes-role-un-climate-change/, (accessed 07/02/21)
 UNFCCC Climate Action Studio. Available at https://www.youtube.com/c/UNFCCCClimateActionStudio/videos, (accessed 03/02/21)