What is COP21? Why it’s a big weekend for climate change | ActionAid UK

If you glance at ActionAid’s Twitter feed in the next few days, you might spot something a bit different. That’s because this weekend marks the end of the COP21 climate talks – a big chance to make a difference for the communities worst hit by climate change. We’re taking three supporters to Paris to join the campaign – and putting them in charge of our Twitter account to report back.

So what is COP21, and why does it matter?

ActionAid campaigners join protests in Paris outside the COP21 talks
ActionAid campaigners join protests in Paris outside the COP21 talks

The COP (Conference of the Parties) is a yearly UN summit on climate change. More importantly, it’s one of our best chances to get the world’s governments to take bold action on climate change.

This year’s talks are going on right now, with more than 190 governments hammering out what could become a global agreement to fight climate change. A strong agreement could reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, while helping some of the world’s most vulnerable communities adapt to its negative effects.

Why does COP21 matter?

That last bit is important, because the negative effects of climate change are devastating some of the world’s poorest communities right now. In countries like Bangladesh, millions of women and children are at risk as floods, cyclones and storms become more dangerous and more common. They threaten the lives and livelihoods of people like Haoa, pictured below, whose farm was completely flooded when the river embankments broke during a huge storm. If all goes well, the COP talks could help women like Haoa

Haoa, 35, has been leading a group of women in her village to campaign for the river embankments to be made stronger after storms flooded her farm.

That’s why we’ve been campaigning hard for a fair deal at COP21. ActionAid campaigners in countries all over the world joined the People’s Climate March last weekend, and in the UK thousands of us emailed our MPs, urging the government to push for a deal that puts the world's poorest women and children first at the talks.

As COP21 wraps up, we’ll keep up the pressure. On the 12th December, campaigners from around the world are meeting in Paris to make sure our voices are heard. Whatever the outcome of the talks, we’ll make sure world leaders know that we won’t stop until they’ve committed to real action on climate change. Climate change is hurting communities like Haoa’s right now, and we won’t let their voices be ignored.

Meet the campaigners

We want to make the campaign in Paris as big as possible, so we’re taking activists from the UK to join ActionAid France in campaigning outside the talks. We’re putting three of them in charge of our Twitter account this Friday and Saturday, so you can hear directly from the demonstration in Paris. Here’s who’s going, and why they’re campaigning for a fair deal on climate change:

Sophie Wills-Virk

“I'm travelling to Paris to join tens of thousands of ordinary people who are demanding more than another empty promise from our world's leaders. COP21 will be a truly historic moment - never have so many of the world’s most powerful people put their differences aside to work together to reverse global warming. I want to remind them that women and girls in developing countries are often the hardest hit by the devastating effects of climate change, and that we need to ensure enough funding is being allocated to adaptation, as well as the prevention, of climate change.”


Ben Thomas

“I’m going to Paris to show powerful decision-makers that I, along with so many other people, care about the outcome of COP21. We need a strong deal that addresses the causes of climate change, as well as helping people adapt to its adverse effects.”


Judith Fagelson

“Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue of our time, but we’re repeatedly let down by the lack of impetus from both governments and companies to commit to meaningful action. In coming to Paris, I'm excited to be part of the movement channelling disappointment into positive energy, putting pressure on governments and companies to commit to lowering emissions and helping communities who are already feeling the effects of global warming.”


You can follow all the action on Twitter at @actionaiduk, and look out for tweets from our campaigners – they’ll be signed off with their initials ^SWV, ^BT or ^JF.