COP26 Climate Summit:  The Road to Glasgow passes through Sussex by Geoff Barnard (first published in WSCT)

The COP26 Climate Summit starts in Glasgow on November 1st.  It’s an opportunity that simply can’t be missed if the world is to get on top of climate change, and the multiple threats it poses to the planet, before it’s too late.

But who knew that crucial, behind-the-scenes, preparations for the conference are happening right here in Sussex, at Wiston House, just up the road from Steyning.

That’s where Wilton Park, a specialist offshoot of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, is based.  In their 75th anniversary year, Wilton Park have been instrumental in convening a whole series of dialogues and meetings – mostly online, because of Covid – all geared to making the Glasgow Summit a success.

COP stands for the ‘Conference of the Parties’, and Glasgow is the 26th such event since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed in Rio at the 1992 Earth Summit. This one is particularly important.  It is the first time that governments will be asked to report back on progress on the pledges made at the Paris Summit in 2016, and ‘ratchet’ them up with new and more demanding targets.

Success in Glasgow will be all about building trust between the 197 countries taking part, and a shared commitment to accelerate climate action.  This is where Wilton Park comes in.  They have been involved in a whole series of dialogues involving heads of state, government ministers, business groups, religious leaders and civil society from around the globe.

The topics covered range from zero emission vehicles to deforestation. One UK and India-led initiative focused on creating greener electricity grids.  Another looked at ways of reducing reliance on coal.

Supporting developing countries in preparing for Glasgow has been a particular focus.  Highlights have included working with ‘The Resilient 40’, a group of younger African leaders, and hosting a forum for the Alliance of Small Island States, a group representing some of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world.

Wilton Park opened their doors on September 21st for a special event focusing on their role in the run up to COP26.  It was organised jointly with Greening Steyning, a local green group that has been active in campaigning for climate action right here in Sussex.

Similar groups exist across the county, and will be using COP26 as a focus for raising awareness on climate issues.  So watch out for events in your area and opportunities to do your bit to protect the planet.


Geoff Barnard is Co-Chair of Greening Steyning and a member of the South East Climate Alliance, a coalition of more than 110 environmental, community and faith groups across the South East.


More information:

A recording of the Wilton Park event will be made available on the Wilton Park website:

Greening Steyning – see

South East Climate Alliance – see