The Youth Lab


This week is both MEGA and META. MEGA in that the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) kicks off on Sunday, running from October 31 until November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland. META in that Facebook have changed their name to META as they formally announce their investment in the metaverse.

This week’s 52INSIGHTS leans on MEGA as COP26 is critical for our universe as a whole, but stay tuned for next week’s 52INSIGHTS where we go all out on META, exploring the metaverse, what it means for our collective existence in virtual and hybrid worlds, and what opportunities it presents for brands and businesses.


COP26 is bringing parties together to assess global progress towards tackling climate change and accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Were it not for the Paris Agreement the earth would have seen a temperature rise of between 3.6 and 4.2 degrees. Yet, as of 2021, we are, as the UN warns, ‘way off track’ and ‘dangerously out of sync’ as greenhouse gases continue to soar. Our current pathway indicates a “catastrophic” temperature increase of 2.7-3.1 degrees Celsius, despite the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century. The UN says emissions must go down nearly 30% by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050, but its recently published Production Gap Report found that fossil fuel production would likely increase by 2040.

The stakes are high with COP26 with the UN openly admitting the challenges of this climate gathering are far greater. Alok Sharma, the UK cabinet minister in charge of the UK-hosted talks, sums it up best, “What we are trying to do in Glasgow is actually really tough. It was brilliant to see what they did in Paris, it was a framework agreement, but a lot of the detailed rules were left for the future. It’s like we got to the end of the exam paper and the most difficult questions are left and you’re running out of time, the exam’s over in half an hour and you go, ‘How are we going to answer this one?”

The Youth Lab has been following media commentary in the countdown to COP26, noting a growing sense of low expectations, in stark contrast to the high expectations of young people:

“COP26 is the most important Climate Conference the world has ever hosted. With the recent publication of multiple NGO reports and leaks surrounding underhand political plays, the general sentiment is one of low expectations, yet the outcome of these talks comes with the highest public expectations. Young people’s future is at stake - the details of what were previously talked about ideas now need to be finalised, from the possibility of a global carbon-pricing mechanism, to clear rules to avoid double counting of emissions reductions. Rules need to be made with no room for breaking them. It’s a now or never kind of vibe.”
Claire Hyland, Head of The Youth Lab, THINKHOUSE


In the countdown to COP26, governments have lobbied the IPCC to ‘cool it on the fossil fuels’, after their categorical scientific claim that ‘humanity is unequivocally to blame for rising temperatures”. Leaked documents show that Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia are among countries trying to lobby the UN to minimise the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels in order to mitigate against climate change. Similarly, Brazil and Argentina, large producers of meat and dairy, wanted the IPCC to back off on recommending plant-based diets to combat climate change.

All eyes are therefore on the leaders who do make it to Glasgow to show up with positive intent and major ambition. Over the last two weeks there has been much speculation as to whether the leaders of the current biggest carbon emitting nations would attend - Russian leader Vladmir Putin is a no show, while Chinese President Xi Jinping is most likely a no, both citing covid fear as a reason for declining. Aside from those choosing not to attend, there are 120 world leaders confirmed including Biden (US), Johnson (UK), Morrison (Australia), Fernandez (Argentina), Erdogan (Turkey) and Buhari (Nigeria) amongst others.

In addition to world leaders, more than 30,000 people from 200 nations are expected to attend, from NGOs and businesses to journalists, lobbyists, negotiators and protesters. Some famous faces include Sir David Attenborough, who is the COP26 People’s Advocate, activist Greta Thunberg, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and the Queen (supposedly, although her health is in question). Fossil fuel firms lobbied for a role, but organisers have given them no official role, as they argue their “claims of going net zero don’t stack up.”

A third of Pacific Island representatives are unable to attend COP26 citing the limitations of covid (risk of infection and quarantine requirements). Activists say their presence, as nations most at threat of rising sea levels, is key to pressuring leaders to agree to aggressive targets, sparking additional fears that the summit will be less ambitious.


The UK states its four key goals for COP26 are to:

  • Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5C within reach
  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
  • Mobilise finance
  • Work together to deliver

Governments are expected to bring ambitious climate change plans to deliver plans to reach these goals, but will they fall short of expectation, given such behaviour to control the narrative and UN’s recent assessment of countries poor progress? Ambition - do we need it? By god yes - in UN Scientist Professor Petter Taalas words “a dramatic increase in commitments” is required.

Both ambition and action on climate change is no longer optional for companies: climate risk will affect 68 of 77 major industry categories. That’s 89% of the market value of the S&P Global 1200. As B Labs points out, “It's become a simple risk-reward analysis: inaction is a liability and action is an asset.” This is everyone's problem and solutions won’t happen without business leaders stepping up and treating it as part of their job.

Young people the world over, are placing their future directly in the hands of COP26 participants. For those of us not actively participating at COP26, the job is the same. A “Dramatic Increase in Commitments” is all our responsibility.


  • Listen Up & Learn: A Public webcast will be available throughout the conference for key meetings and high-level events. To follow conversations online, the main hashtags for this conference are #COP26 and #SB2021.
  • Check out Purpose Disruptors ‘The Good Life’: Led by Purpose Disruptors and in collaboration with the Insight Climate Collective, Race to Zero, Stories for Life and over 100 industry professionals, Good Life 2030 is a campaign for the advertising industry to create compelling visions of the future in 2030.
  • Sustainability in Practice Event with IAPI and THINKHOUSE: To coincide with COP26, The Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) is hosting "Sustainability in Practice" Panel Discussion on Friday 5th November. Jane McDaid, Founder & Head of Creative Innovation at THINKHOUSE will join our client partner Abby Bentley, Global Brand and Marketing Director, Yugo and other panelists to discuss what a responsible, sustainable business looks like today and how to even begin to make the necessary change. Register here.
  • Take to the Streets: October, already named “Striketober” on the back of all the workers across America and Europe authorising strikes, will see more feet hit the streets in Glasgow. Local council workers are threatening strike action from Nov 1st - Nov 8th. Greta Thunberg has said she will join the climate strike on Nov 5th, where she “will invite everyone, especially the workers striking in Glasgow, to join us.” Check out Fridays for Future to search for strikes in your area and show solidarity with young people fighting for the dramatic action we so desperately need.

See also

Meta About META
Meta About META

There is change in the air and it’s pushing us towards new frontiers - in real and virtual worlds. COP26 is still in motion with...


“The IPCC report is a code red for humanity.” António Guterres, UN Secretary General