Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

Panel discussion at COP26
Caoimhe O’Carroll initials

1st of November 2021

Hi there! My name is Caoimhe O’Carroll and I’m attending COP26 on behalf of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) from the 1st to the 6th of November. I’ve never been to a COP so I really don’t know what to expect but I’m really grateful for the opportunity and keen to share my experience! 

So, what is COP? COP stands for the Conference of Parties and refers to the meeting of 197 members of the UN on matters relating to climate change. At these annual conferences, world leaders commit to certain pledges/ambitions in the area of climate action. For example, in Paris 2015 the Parties adopted a legally binding international treaty to limit global warming – aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. In short, COP is “the room where it happens” when it comes to combating climate change.


because USI represents over 374,000 students on the island of Ireland, we believe that we have a real stake in what happens at COP26

Why have I been invited? I work as USI’s VP for the Dublin Region, and because USI represents over 374,000 students on the island of Ireland, we believe that we have a real stake in what happens at COP26. Climate Action may not be at the centre of our mission as an organisation but there’s no doubt that it’s at the centre of our future as young people. 

It’s really exciting to be able to actively participate in the conference this year. We were granted access by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications at short notice but there was no chance we were going to pass it up! COP is a fantastic opportunity to network with like-minded people, to learn more about climate injustice and to spread the message that we need urgent action now to save our planet. 

As a real newbie to the workings of COP, imposter syndrome began to kick in real quick… I am sorely aware that I am no expert on all things environmentalism. I’m no plastic-free, all organic, vegan. However, these concerns soon dissipated in some pre-meetings with colleagues from Friends of the Earth, STAND, Stop Climate Chaos, COP26 Coalition Ireland. They kindly reminded me that you don’t need to be an expert to engage with the COP and the voices of regular civilians are just as important as climate activists.

Heading to the airport!

How am I preparing? With the existential crisis out of the way, I’ve been getting ready to travel abroad for the first time post-pandemic. I found it impossible to pack since becoming so accustomed to life at home in lockdown! I’ve also been busy reading COVID testing requirements, following through with those tests, and recording the results accordingly. The restrictions surrounding COP are very tight and I’m required to do both a PCR test 48 hours before arrival in Glasgow and then daily LFT (Lateral Flow Testing) which is quite a demanding regime!

Packing light!

What will I do while I’m there? I don’t yet have a set schedule when it comes to my time in Glasgow. However, one thing is certain – I’m going to be busy! A lot of the official events have already been booked out but there will be plenty of side events, stalls and protests for me to participate in. I have loose plans to go live on Instagram every evening to discuss each day’s events and bring COP home in any way I can. I’m looking to push myself out of my comfort zone and be open to any opportunities that come my way. 

What are my expectations? So far, I don’t know what to expect! From my own perspective, my ambition is to engage with as many people as possible and to relay all my learnings back to the Irish student population. From a policy perspective, my hope would be that COP26 marks a turning point in climate action and climate policy. It’s key that COP26 brings about progressive and radical change to the global approach on climate change in order to adequately address concerns that our generation have. 


Want to learn more about what Caoimhe is up to in Glasgow for COP26? Follow STAND social media accounts for regular updates including an Instagram Live check-in!


Make your own contribution to confronting climate change by take the pledge to #RiseUp! Click here to learn more, to take the pledge, and to receive an action pack with 100 ways to make a difference.




Featured photo from UNFCCC


This article was supported by: STAND Student Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin


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