Climate activist, Kevin Smith, on the effectiveness of COP26 by Liam Jenkins

This Is Local London: I interviewed climate activist Kevin Smith about his experience at various different COP events (UN climate change conferences), and about how he got into climate activism.

When asked about Cop, Kevin said “I don’t really have a lot of faith in the Cop process” as “They have been promising climate finance and loss and damage payment for ten years”.

Kevin first became interested in climate activism when he went to Cop 6, which was in the Netherlands. A group of Kevin’s friends staged an “intervention at Cop 6 because they were feeling that action wasn’t happening… the type of solutions that were being proposed were market-based mechanisms that were trying to perpetuate business as usual”. Kevin said, “It had a really big impact on me in terms of awareness of the scale of the issue”. Currently Kevin works for a climate change focused organisation called NEON who “provide support and capacity to social movements and campaigners who were engaging with COP26”.

I asked Kevin about where the ‘blame’ of who is most responsible for climate change lies. Kevin believes that “we need to fundamentally change the economic system and the political system that we are living in”. When asked about how individuals can help, Kevin said: “My range of options as an individual is enormously limited by the political systems” and our “ability to influence politicians is massively limited compared to what a fossil fuel company can do”. Kevin said that while “individuals have a role it is always collective action that makes the biggest difference”. He also believes that our government is hypocritical with the way it deals with climate change as “the UK government has a ‘do what I say and not what I do’ approach with other countries in terms of its climate leadership”.

There are climate change protest groups, such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, who get a lot of negative press because of their actions. These groups use disruptive tactics, such as stopping traffic, which are very unpopular with lots of people. Kevin praised these groups and said, “I think that every single protest movement from the suffragettes to the gay liberation struggles to apartheid have all depended on unpopular disruptive tactics”. This sentiment is shared by many people who believe that while climate activists actions may be disruptive, they are still necessary as our governments are not doing nearly enough to try and combat climate change.